By Madeline Bermudez Community Health Worker, Penn State REACH
Lebanon, Pa- Did you know that Lebanon has several Hispanic business owners? I wasn’t aware that they are so many Latino businesses in Lebanon, PA. I was in town to attend an event. I visited a few of these locations to hear about the process of opening up a business, how their journey began, their motivation, and how they felt about having a business in Lebanon?
My first stop was at La Placita Restaurant, located at 922 Cumberland St. I asked Guadalupe Barba what motivated them to open a business in Lebanon? Guadalupe explained that as far as opening up a company, she has to credit her husband, Sergio Uraga. Guadalupe said she admires him because he has always been a fantastic businessman. She explains that he owned their first business in Mexico. They migrated to Lebanon 20 years ago. Sergio also decided to open a restaurant in Lebanon Guadalupe agreed to come to Lebanon to support Sergio at their new restaurant, and then they sold that restaurant. After that, they decided to open a store to sell Mexican products since it was hard to find Mexican products. Guadalupe explained that they prepared by taking a Spanish business course at Houston University. I asked Guadalupe to explain how they decided to open a business. She said their first step was to apply for their permits; once they received their permits, everything else was easy.
I railed a few blocks up the street to meet with Cesar Franklin Liriano Torres. I spoke to him about why he decided to open up not one but 2 different Latino businesses in Lebanon. Cesar began to say that his parents went through the process of getting him his visa to come and live in the United States from the Dominican Republic. Cesar stated that he has always been very independent and didn’t like working for anyone. Still, instead, Cesar wanted to focus on progressing as a businessman. Cesar stated his purpose in coming to the United States wasn’t to be an employee; Cesar wished to own a business to give his kids and family a better life. In 2004 he came to Lebanon from New York to visit his brother, and that’s when he thought of the possibility of moving to Lebanon from New York. At first, Cesar wasn’t sure about moving to Lebanon. Still, he noticed that the quality of life in Lebanon was better than living in a big city like New York. His second reason for moving was that Cesar wanted to be a homeowner, which wasn’t possible for him in New York. Finally, he realized that Lebanon would be the place for him and his family to purchase their home since he saw Lebanon as a good and safe city to raise his kids. I asked him how and why did you decide to open Lebanon Travel multiservice located at 525 North 9th Street? Cesar discussed the necessity in Lebanon for a bilingual Public Notary, income tax services, travel agency, and Immigration Form office. Since community members traveled to other cities for these needs. Cesar and his wife Rossenia also saw the necessity to open a childcare center in Lebanon. They opened up Rossenia Family Child Care Home Center at 118 North 10th Street, specializing in providing care for children with special needs.
My nex stop was a new restaurant called Cakes by Moraima & Café, located at 443 Cumberland Street. I met with the owner Moraima Gonzalez; She began to explain how she and her husband, Carlos Quintana, migrated from Puerto Rico to Florida and then to New York before arriving in Lebanon. Moraima discussed that her initial reason as to why she went to the United States was due to her health issue. Still, she also wanted to open up a business where she could sell cake slices with coffee. Moraima already had a job but also made and sold cakes from home. She decided that she wanted to expand her business to the community. Moraima came across what she describes as a beautiful spot here in Lebanon where she could not only sell cake slices and coffee and offer a breakfast menu. A place where people can come and not only enjoy tasting her cakes but also sit down and socialize while enjoying their Food. Moraima and her husband decided to move after they saw that Lebanon had a great school district for her children and a friendly city to raise them in. This was when she decided not only to move to Lebanon but also to start the process of achieving her dream of becoming a Latina business owner in Lebanon.
My last stop is on Cumberland Street, a little place called Orquidea’s Pupuseria, at 519 Cumberland Street. The owner Orquidea was extremely busy when I arrived. She is also a woman of few words but with a lot of pride in being a Hispanic businesswoman. When I asked her why she decided to open up her business in Lebanon, she began to tell me that it was out of necessity to financially support her family. Orquidea migrated from El Salvador to New York and then to Lebanon. She has been living in Lebanon for 15 years now. So, she saw this as an excellent opportunity to achieve her dream of becoming a business owner. When she arrived in Lebanon, she noticed no other restaurants selling dishes with typical foods from El Salvador. She saw this as an excellent opportunity to offer something different offer authentic Salvadorian Food. Orquidea started opening up her business and said she was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. She is grateful that she was able to make her dream a reality.
I must say that each business owner I interviewed stated that the process of opening up their business in Lebanon was easy once they received their permits. I also asked each of them if they had to give a piece of advice to someone else that wanted to open up a business, what direction would they give them? Impressive enough, they all pretty much said the same thing. They first researched the area where they intend to open up a business. Second, have a concrete plan on what company you want to open and where your business would be more beneficial, and never give up on your dream. Finally, each business owner stated their gratitude to the Lebanon community for supporting their business.