Growing up my parents owned a computer store in Los Angeles County. Our family business had a retail space on the main street of our suburban city that was vibrant and busy by all indications. At the time I didn’t think much of it, the store was just part of our family life for much of my childhood. There was no shortage of customers or work to be done and my parents often employed 2-3 other people to help with the business. My father was the quintessential main street entrepreneur and job creator our politicians refer to so often in their stump speeches. He earned an MBA from a prestigious university and started his own small business in a field that was new and burgeoning. He was also born in south Texas to an undocumented immigrant mother. She came to America seeking a better life for herself and her future children just as people have been doing for generations. Many people think that immigrants come to another country to take but in reality they create, give and share in innumerable ways. They create jobs, take risks and are the embodiment of the American dream.
At some point the market pressures of bigger retail spaces made a computer store untenable and my parents closed their business and both moved on to other professions: bookkeeping for my mother and real estate for my father. About 90 percent of American businesses are family owned or controlled according to data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The trend in the last 20 years has also been that of those businesses the percentage owned by immigrants has almost doubled.
My interest is in the roots of immigrant business, the local and specific spaces that give character to any neighborhood. The places where people carve out space for themselves, their families and new immigrants on their own terms. Businesses that take a chance or hold on despite the looming market pressures of an internet centric and automated economy that is surely growing. My work is a reminder that immigrant owned businesses are as American as it gets.
You can check out more work on my website.