Long Branch Business News Business League Voices Security Concerns — and Wins
Portraits of Long Branch Business
El Golfo’s Ada Villatoro: From Farm to Table
The May meeting of the Long Branch Business League took place in the spacious offices of Cyber Web Latino. The meeting addressed several fairly urgent issues: preserving the police substation in Long Branch; improving safety at the Flower and Piney Branch intersection; resolving internal business league governance issues.
July 2011 Volume 4, Issue 3
As is now the tradition, an IMPACT Silver Spring organizer, this time Anh Tranh, got the conversation started with one of their signature ice-breakers. Guests at the meeting from outside the league included Lieutenant Ed Daniel, from Montgomery County Police, and Jacob Sesker of the Montgomery County Planning Department. Mr. Sesker is lead planner responsible for the Long Branch sector plan. Mario Menendez, a CASA de Maryland organizer working on mobilizing support for the police sub-station was also present. At the time of the meeting it appeared certain that, because of the County’s budget shortfall, the Long Branch substation would be de-funded. The (See Business, page 2)
If you have a good source for local, naturally produced fresh vegetables, or chicken, or even fish at a reasonable price, Ada Villatoro is in the market. Her menu is evolving. Ada’s El Golfo Restaurant, already well known locally for its frequent school benefits and now also for its Wednesday ‘jazz and a free drink’ nights that pack the house, used to serve fairly standard Latin fare. Problem was they weren’t the only restaurant in town serving fajitas, ceviche, burritos, and the like. “We’ve changed our menu; customers
demanded it,” Ada said during a recent Newsletter interview. “We have lots of vegetarians and even vegans living in the area. I want them to support El Golfo as well as the vegetarian places in Takoma Park.” Ada’s recent menu changes, which now include healthier—and less expensive—lunch-time fare, were not only a matter of cold business calculation. Ada is returning to her roots. Ada grew up on a farm that raised chickens and pigs and cows the old-fashioned way, and that experience makes her squeamish when she thinks about (See Villatoro, back page)
Inside this issue: Las Noticias en Español 2 What is Community?
Elms planted on Arliss
At left: Approximate rendering of portion of Flower Center, under renovation (see page 3)
Business League Acts on Safety, Traffic Issues (Business, from page 1) County Council was scheduled to vote on the budget at the end of the following week. Business owners spoke out in defense of the police sub-station. Jose Melara, owner of Cyber Web Latino, said unruly clients settle down quickly when he tells them “we have a police station next door.” Carlos Perozo said he would hate to see the station go, as the police presence appears to be successfully keeping serious criminal elements out of the commercial area. As we now know, the County Council in the end kept a sub-station in Long Branch, though at a reduced cost. Meetings such as this one, along with letters and phone calls from a variety of sources, no doubt had a positive impact. Congratulations to all who got involved! A creative idea that came out of the discussion can still be acted upon. Jose Rodriguez suggested coming up with a list of stores who welcome police presence and can provide a temporary rest space or a cup of coffee. Please contact the newsletter if you would like to be added to this list (pgrenier@MHPartners.org). Once again the Business League turned its attention to the left turn problems at Flower Ave. and Piney
What is Community?
Branch. The association members present were unanimous in their support for such a new left turn signal light to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety at this key intersection. After the meeting, Paul Grenier contacted Cedric Ward, the State Highway Administration engineer responsible for our district. Mr. Ward said a study of the intersection would be initiated and he promised to report back to the association at its next meeting. The final agenda item was the delayed Long Branch sector plan. Jacob Sesker, the Montgomery Co. planner, said the goal was to take a closer look so as to ensure the plan would be useful not only in the long term, but also in the short term. The hope is to find new ways to make incremental changes that can have a discernable impact. Sesker, who formerly lived in Latin America and at one time spoke Spanish fluently, distributed his business card to all present, adding that he welcomed hearing directly from everyone. Jose Melara, Cyber Web’s owner, proved a gracious host. “I tell you one thing,” he said at one point during the meeting, “I’ve got the space, and the community can use this space.” When it comes to helping the community, he added, “I’m ready to do everything.”
Noticias de la Liga de Negocios de Long Branch La reunión de mayo de la Liga de Negocios de Long Branch tomó lugar en las oficinas espaciosas del Cyber Web Latino. En la reunión se trataron varios asuntos bastante urgentes: La preservación de la subestación de la policía en Long Branch; el mejoramiento de la seguridad en la intersección de Flower y Piney Branch; la resolución de asuntos gubernamentales internos de la liga de negocios.
Como ahora ya es tradición, una organizadora de IMPACT Silver Spring, que esta vez fue Anh Tranh, empezó la conversación con una de sus actividades “rompehielos.” Los invitados a la reunión que no pertenecían a la liga incluían al Teniente Ed Daniel, de la Policía del Condado de Montgomery, y Jacob Sesker del Departamento de (Ver. Pag. 3, Noticias)
The following responses were gathered one hot afternoon from a random selection of Long Branch businesses. The question was simple: How do you define community? “It’s all of us together. Everyone working together, even the kids. All of us. Maybe a small event, with a party. Or helping a kid study. That’s it. Just the small things we do together. Even the tiniest bit. In Kenya I lived in a neighborhood of flats [apartments]. You knew every neighbor even from five blocks down. People came over to watch a movie or to borrow a cup of sugar.” – Fiona Nyamira, assistant manager, Payless Shoes “It’s a group. All my neighborhood and other people, talking together. We don’t talk enough here. We need to talk about safety, about the physical look of the area, and for Montgomery County to help us out with the taxes.” -- Ana Morelas, owner, La Escudilla Restaurant “It’s supporting each other and looking out for each other in the neighborhood where you live, where you work.” -- Ada Villatoro, owner, El Golfo “I guess community is a group that’s willing to help each other, to help a neighbor in need, or if it’s a business, to help. We [at Giant] help by donating to the community food bank. It’s a group that’s willing to protect each other, through safety, or charity if needed.” -- Jim Hiller, manager, Giant Foods “It’s a friend, a neighbor, helping each other out. In Korea, people were more friendly. Today people are busy. In Louisiana I lived in a small town. Every weekend the whole community would get together just for a birthday. Here it is superficial. People don’t care enough not to throw an empty beer bottle in the base of a potted tree.” -- Nok Kim, owner, Spin Cycle Laundry
Long Branch Business News
Major Renovations Begin at Wolpoff Family’s Flower Center On June 20th, the Wolpoff Family’s Flower Center shopping strip, which stretches from the 7/11 all the way to the Bank of America and includes Domino’s Pizza, began a major face lift. According to architect Brendan Glass of Brasher Design, the project will rejuvenate 500 linear feet of building façade, adding new finishes and textures. New fixtures, new retaining walls and new roofing surfaces are all to be installed. Kirk Benefiel, president of Rudder Industries and until recently the property manager for the site, told the Newsletter that the face-lift will result in a much more contemporary look for the site which has not been renovated
since 1986. After the renovation is completed, Benefiel said, the center will more resemble downtown Silver Spring. “The broken-up tower look with intermittent awnings will look more like separate buildings,” he said, and will differ sharply from the building’s current flat, horizontally-oriented lay-out. “It’s a substantial upgrade,” Benefiel said. “Mrs. Wolpoff and the Wolpoff family care a great deal about the property and its resident clients, and would like to keep everyone doing well and happy and healthy.” The façade changes will include new paint colors and new awnings and a mix
(Noticias, de pag. 2)
Planificación del Condado de Montgomery. El Sr. Sesker es el planificador principal responsable por el Plan de Sector de Long Branch. Mario Menéndez, organizador de CASA de Maryland trabajando para fomentar apoyo para la subestación de la policía, también estaba presente.
Como ya sabemos, el Consejo del Condado decidió finalmente mantener una subestación en Long Branch, pero a un costo reducido. Las reuniones como ésta, así como cartas y llamadas de teléfono de una variedad de fuentes, sin duda tuvieron un impacto positivo. ¡Felicidades a todos que estaban involucrados!
Al momento de la reunión se hizo evidente que, por el déficit considerable del presupuesto del Condado, la subestación de Long Branch—aparentemente la más cara del Condado entero—estaba por perder su financiamiento. El Consejo del Condado tenía programado votar sobre el presupuesto al fin de la próxima semana. Los dueños de negocios hablaron en defensa de la subestación de la policía. José Melara, el dueño del Cyber Web Latino, dijo que sus patrocinadores problemáticos se calmaban rápidamente cuando se les dice que “hay una estación de la policía al lado.” Carlos Perozo dijo que odiaría ver que se vaya la estación, ya que la presencia de la policía causa que no haya elementos criminales serios en el área
Volume 4, Issue 3
Hay una idea creativa que salió de la discusión sobre la cual todavía podemos actuar. José Rodríguez sugirió que hagamos una lista de tiendas que dan la bienvenida a la presencia policial y que puedan brindar un espacio de descanso temporáneo o una taza de café. Contacte por favor al boletín si le gustaría que se añada su nombre a la lista (pgrenier@MHPartners.org). Otra vez la Liga de Negocios dirigió su atención al problema del giro a la izquierda desde Flower Ave. hacia Piney Branch. Los miembros presentes de la asociación brindaron su apoyo unánime para colocar un semáforo nuevo para doblar a la izquierda y así mejorar la seguridad peatonal y vehicular en esta intersección clave. Después de la reunión, Paul Grenier
of faux stone. The so-called parapet wall at the roof line will also be restyled. A partial rendering of the final architecture is on display at the site (see also illustration, page one). Coincidentally, Mr. Benefiel recently made the decision to retire, but he is staying on to help manage the renovation, which he helped prepare “from the ground up.” The new property manager for the site will be Finmarc Management. General contractor for the construction work is Stoehr Companies based in Eldersburg, Maryland. If all goes according to plan, the renovation work will be completed this fall. contactó a Cedric Ward, el ingeniero de la Administración Estatal de Carreteras responsable para nuestro distrito. El Sr. Ward dijo que se iniciaría un estudio de la intersección inmediatamente y prometió reportar a la asociación en persona en su próxima reunión. El punto final de la agenda fue el Plan de Sector de Long Branch, que ha sido postergado. Jacob Sesker dijo que la meta es mirar al plan con un ojo más crítico para asegurar que el plan sea útil no solo a largo plazo pero también a corto plazo. La esperanza es encontrar nuevas maneras para hacer cambios incrementales que pueden tener un impacto notable. Sesker, quien antes vivía en Latinoamérica y una vez hablaba el español fluidamente, distribuyó su tarjeta de negocios a todos presentes, añadiendo que esperaba que todos le contacten directamente. José Melara, el dueño de Cyber Web, resultó ser un anfitrión gracioso. “Les digo una cosa,” el dijo durante la reunión, “Tengo el espacio, y la comunidad puede usar este espacio.” Cuando se trata de ayudar a la comunidad, el añadió, “Estoy listo para hacer todo.” Page 3
A Chat with El Golfo’s Ada Villatoro
Historic Elms Planted On Arliss Street
(Villatoro, from page 1) factory-farmed products here in the U.S. What was it like growing up on a farm in rural El Salvador? “I started working when I was five,” Ada said. “We started doing tasks on the farm as soon as we could walk! El Salvador doesn’t have a middle class, but we weren’t poor. We certainly weren’t rich.” One of 11 children, Ada had just finished high school and was planning to go to college to study economics when the civil war heated up. Then one night an armed group burst into the farmhouse carrying machine guns. Ada suffered abuse, and her fourteenyear-old brother was snatched. She remembers her mother crying and pleading with the group, who were probably guerillas; though to this day Ada isn’t sure they weren’t simply bandits. They seized him anyway, along with all their money and valuables. For some reason, the next day her brother was returned unharmed. After that, Ada finally consented to go north to join her father. Just for two years, she thought, and then she’d come back for college. But two years later the civil war was
El Golfo’s main dining area, site of numerous meetings—and a jazz night. still in full swing. When she finally did return for a visit, some seven years after leaving, she found she had no desire to stay. “The country was ruined,” Ada says. “When a country goes through a civil war, it gets put back fifteen years.” There was no money, no work, and little security. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Ada had established a career. By the time she was 21 she was working as a chef at the Market Inn, a Washington seafood restaurant. Her employer sponsored her to get her green card. She stayed there seven years learning every aspect of the business. She has been a U.S. citizen since 1998. After purchasing El Golfo from her brother in 2004, things were initially quite tough. Then they got better. And then the U.S. economy collapsed. Ever since it’s been, she admits, “a struggle.” Even so, Ada’s not complaining.
Long Branch Business League
Meeting Thursday July 14, 2011 9:30 am—11:00 am
El Golfo Restaurant 8739 Flower Ave.
“I tell my kids they are so lucky,” Ada says, and then reflects that it wasn’t exactly luck. It was her decision to raise them here in the U.S.
With apartments on one side of the street and shopping on the other, it is hardly surprising that lots of pedestrians use Arliss Street between Piney Branch Road and Waldon Street. The experience of walking that stretch of sidewalk has just taken a big step forward, thanks to the County’s Arliss Street Improvement Project. Led by Cynthia Butler of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the project is adding 14 ‘Princeton’ variety American elm trees and placing 12 new pedestrian-oriented street lights all in this same stretch of busy sidewalk. The sidewalk itself has been made more attractive, now that it has been detailed with exposed aggregate and brushed concrete. The addition of the elm trees, however, is particularly welcome, and, in a sense, even historic. After all, the American elm was once the pride of many American and European cities, before Dutch elm disease destroyed the vast majority of these majestic and beautiful shade trees in the 1960s and 1970s. The elms being planted on Arliss Street are the same highly diseaseresistant variety planted in 2005 along Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. This variety is known to be fast growing. With luck, the trees should live at least 150 years and could grow to a height of 100 feet.
“In El Salvador,” Ada explains, “you can’t start from zero. People will try whatever they can to stop you from reaching higher. Here, nothing can stop you … ” Ada grins, then laughs and completes her phrase: “except the government and taxes!” El Golfo is located at 8739 Flower Ave., near the old theater.
The new look of Arliss Street.
Long Branch Business News, a quarterly publication Paul Grenier, Editor 301-622-2400, x 41 pgrenier@MHPartners.org