Latina Entrepreneurs Aim to Thrive as Hyde Square Changes

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Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, colors Rose Moorachian's hair. November 2014.

Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, colors Rose Moorachian's hair. November 2014. Credit: Esther Ro

Running a small business is no easy task. Just ask longtime Jamaica Plain entrepreneurs Damaris Pimentel and Patria Valenzuela.

The two business pioneers face the challenge of thriving in the midst of a gentrifying neighborhood.

Alison Moronta, the business development director at Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, pauses for a photo. November 2014. Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, pauses for a photo. November 2014.[/caption]

Damaris Pimentel is the owner of Dresses on display at Sonia of Boston. October 2014. Dresses on display at Sonia of Boston. October 2014.[/caption]

Just 56 feet away from Ultra Beauty Salon stands Dresses on display at Sonia of Boston. October 2014. Dresses on display at Sonia of Boston. October 2014.[/caption]

Tremendous Strides for Maid Service

But while some experience setbacks, others experience success.

Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, shampoos Robin Chandler. November 2014. Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon, shampoos Robin Chandler. November 2014.[/caption]

If Valenzuela had not bought the building her store calls home years ago, her store would have closed by now because costs are through the roof and profit isn’t flowing her way, she said.

Relative Success

The way these business owners have measured their success is not by only evaluating the present.

For Valenzuela, her success is measured by years of desire.

“I love this business. It was my dream since I was a little girl. Even though it took me a long time to get here, I made it,” she said, this time with a smile on her face.

Both businesses have welcomed customers for more than 25 years.

An incomplete study started in 2011 revealed that the average life span of small businesses in the Hyde/Jackson area is 19 years plus. Peg Barringer started the study in collaboration with Hyde Jackson Main Street's Economic Restructuring Committee, but the study was not completed for reasons out of her control.

“The fact that our business has been standing for 32 years is already enough of a success for me,” said Pimentel.

Pimentel also attributes her salon’s success to its diversity. She says that Ultra complements the community because it attracts customers from different nationalities and economic backgrounds.

"The businesses that won't adapt won't see if it's worth the investment. I hope it is," said Amador, who is also a part of the Hyde Jackson Business Association.

A Hopeful Future

Despite increases in cost, owners remain hopeful about a better future for their businesses.

The future of Jamaica Plain isn’t today or tomorrow–it’s in a couple of years. We all see that future but operating like this, how we are now, is tough,” said Valenzuela.

Pimentel also envisions a more fruitful future. She says that community members should work together rather than individually for everyone’s benefit and to also preserve the community’s ‘sabor Latino,’ or Latin spice.

For now, the focus is on the present.

"Most people won't adapt because they're afraid of change. If that's the case, they won't be able to make it unfortunately. With all the changes in JP, change is necessary in order to stay in the area," said Amador.

Small business supporters realize working with small businesses is not simple. It “requires power, great partnership and finding cheaper resources. “

So the only way to get out of this pitfall is to hold on tight and fight to survive.

As we wrapped up our interview, Valenzuela shook it off and stood up to show me around. She walked to the center of the store, put on a smile and spread out her arms. She said, "I don't know for how much longer but this is my store. Take a look at all the dresses. Snap some pictures if you'd like."

Valenzuela savors her pockets of triumph even in moments of distress.

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