Who are the people in our neighborhood?


The storefront on the southwest corner of 46th and Bloomington had been vacant for months. One day the ‘for rent’ sign was down and a yellow permit appeared on the door. Days later, sounds of light construction could be heard, then cans of paint were delivered, and finally people were hauling in shelving units. While walking the pug, I’d wave at my neighbors and ask them, “Do you know what’s happening on the corner?” No one knew. We all had guesses. We all had worries. We all knew that before this mystery company started to move in, the space had housed a cabinet and remodeling shop. Before that, a children’s learning center. And before that, a brothel.

Last summer a new sign was up and ‘El Sol’ opened its doors.
I sent my neighbor Patrick on a mission to check it out in a double-dog-dare sort of scenario. He walked back a few minutes later eating a candy bar. He shrugged and said, “It’s a convenience store … the guy seems nice.”

I didn’t meet the owner myself until a few months ago when the sound of an SUV vs SUV collision called me out of my home, and him, out of his store. My new neighbor was on the scene before anyone else, with his 13-year-old son right behind him. Both assisted the dazed drivers, helped direct traffic, and gave their statements and information to the police officers that arrived. Neither the man nor his son left the scene until everyone was safe and the tow trucks had departed.
I mumbled aloud to myself, “Wow. That man works next door every day and I don’t even know his name; that is the equivalent of anti-friendly.”

So last week, I put on my boots and walked over to find out more about my new neighbor and his store.

I met Mr. Faustino Martinez and learned that El Sol = it’s a family affair.
According to Faustino, the market was the brainchild of his beautiful wife of 15 years, Maria. While he keeps the store doors open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., he also uses that time to repair computers. He was born and raised in Mexico City, where he originally went to school for computer something or other (I am not good with computers so I’ll be honest with you and say that I didn’t understand this part of the conversation). What I did understand is that he also studied computers when he arrived in the states over 20 years ago. He often continues his education and supplements his skills with college courses.

Maria has more of a hand in the day-to-day business affairs of El Sol along with planning for the future. She’s already considering expanding and offering some Mexican Deli and take-away food options. Maria selected the store location, manages the business, controls inventory and stocks the shelves. She does all of this after working her full-time job at an ink cartridge refurbishing company. If you swing by on a weekend you might meet her and see their three kids studying in the corner or helping their parents about the store.

One thing I know, the Martinez family is a good Southside addition. They’re generous, kind, courteous and by far the hardest working family on the block. At a time when the nightly news is chock full of super swindlers, banks gone wild and greedy fools, it’s really heartwarming and exciting to know that we have neighbors like Faustino and Maria Martinez working day and night trying to make an honest living. Sacrificing everything to make a go of owning their own, eventually profitable, business to make a good life for themselves, their two sons, Alejandro and Alvaro, and daughter, Monika.

The market offers more than your average convenience store. You ought to stop in, meet them and take a peek around.