Building the American Dream Via a Grocery

Luis Batista at the ceremony in his honor at the Essex Street Market. Councilmember Margaret Chin is second from right, and Borough President Gale Brewer is fourth from right. (Photo by Zach Williams via the East Villager)

Luis Batista at the ceremony in his honor at the Essex Street Market. Councilwoman Margaret Chin is second from right, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is fourth from right. (Photo by Zach Williams via the East Villager)

Luis Batista, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 1985, ran a produce and grocery store at the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side for almost 20 years. At the end of June, he was honored for his contributions as a small businessman and entrepreneur by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilwoman Margaret Chin and others at a ceremony, reports Zach Williams of the East Villager. Brewer declared June 27 Luis Batista Day in Manhattan.

Batista retired a couple of months ago, and sold his business to another Dominican, Luis Vargas. He plans to maintain the business as a grocery – one which has garnered many loyal customers over the years.

His kind disposition made him like a neighborhood uncle to his regular customers, according to Councilmember Margaret Chin.

“It’s just great to be so neighborly and to have so many people love him,” she said. “I think, among immigrant communities, they want to be entrepreneurs, set up their own businesses; and I think Essex Street Market offers this opportunity to a lot of small businesses at affordable rents.”

The Essex Street Market is an enclosed market that opened in 1940. Its manager, Lisa Thompson, said that Batista had exemplified the ideals of the historic marketplace.

“He’s a small business owner and entrepreneur, an immigrant who came onboard in the market, specifically at a time that it was not in as high demand as it is currently,” Thompson said. “And he built a business from a stall, and his footprint is not necessarily the footprint that he started off with. And it’s truly the American story of the small business owner who worked really hard.”

Read more at the East Villager.

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