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Sun January 30, 2011
Providence, Mi Ciudad: Business on Broad Street
By CATHERINE WELCH
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Customers line up at the El Vecino Meat Market at Warrington and Broad Street to buy groceries and lottery tickets, and Estevez rings them up. It's her parent's store.
Her dad speaks Spanish, she speaks English. So on top of being a psychology student at URI, she works here every day, earning a real world business degree as her family store competes with identical stores in either direction on this stretch of Broad Street.
"Sometimes it's competition because some of the other stores don't have the same prices as us and the customers come and they complain a lot, but we do what we can," she says.
The store is stuffed with merchandise, stocking the shelves is more an art than science.
"You have duct tape, and tennis balls, and frying pans, and lots of coffee, how do you decide," asks Welch.
"Certain things, like phone cards, if there are a number of requests for a certain phone card, we get it," says Estevez.
Her family has owned the place for nearly two years. They were thinking about leaving the area, now they're an integral part of the Elmwood neighborhood.
"Everybody's really nice and, it looks like a big neighborhood, but it's not that big everybody knows each other," she says.
Jason Vargas works down the block, at his family's dry cleaning business. He says it's a tight community.
"We know the restaurant right down the street, the night club, I know the convenient store right across, the liquor store right down the street," says Vargas.
Vargas works down the block, at his family's dry cleaning business. He says it's a tight community. "Everybody kind of helping each other, if I can't do something that I know that somebody else can do I send it to them" Vargas says.
By day, this stretch of Broad Street looks like any other major commercial artery. But at night, a caravan rolls in, delivering a flavor not found in any other part of the city.
"This is a meat pie, a chicken pie, a ham and cheese and pizza," says Fancisco DeJesus. (:06) DeJesus hangs out the window of the Puerto Rico Famila chimi truck. Lined one behind the other, these trucks fill the air with the rumbling of their generators and the smell of beef and onions.
"This truck, he's Puerto Rican, the owner is Puerto Rican," says customer Christian Feliz. "But then his chimi tastes better than the other ones around here. Don't ask me why, but it's just the truth."
A chimi is a hot sandwich seasoned chicken, beef or pork, served up with tomato and coleslaw on a toasted bun. The name Chimi comes from Chimichurri, a green or red sauce used for marinating. As the legend goes, an Irishman named Jimmy McCurry invented the sauce and through translation, or a mis-translation, Jimmy McCurry became Chimichurri. The chimi sandwich is the Dominican interpretation of fast food.
Down the street at the big red truck that's Johnny's Chimi Place, Marecio Siero cooks up another Broad Street favorite.
"I'm frying, a pie, ham and cheese pie," he says. "Now I'm taking out of the oil and letting dry few minutes then put in the front to sell away."
Siero says he sells hundreds of chimis and meat pies, and on a jumping Friday night - thousands.
Chimi connoisseur Christian Feliz says it's like a gold rush.
"Every month you see more trucks. He hasn't been here long, I haven't seen him (asks in Spanish) see, he's been here four months," says Feliz.
Chimi truck operators I talked to said on a Friday night in the summer, there could be as many as 20 trucks lining Broad Street. They say while sometimes the nights can be long, the trucks are a decent way to make a living.
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