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Hispanic Heritage Month: Latino Businesses Flourish On Staten Island

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Staten Island has seen the largest increase in its Latino community than any other borough, prompting many Hispanic businesses to open up shop. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

Drive anyplace on Staten Island and it's not hard to find a Latino-owned business. From Port Richmond to Tottenville Hispanics have set up shop, opening everything from bodegas to restaurants to a wellness center on Amboy Road.

"I think that's a great representation of not only the growth of the population but also of the growth of them becoming business owners and of them creating jobs," said Gonzalo Mercado of El Centro de Inmigrante.

In the last 10 years, the Hispanic population on Staten Island has grown by 51.4 percent -- the highest increase in the city. Hispanics now make up 17 percent of the island's population.

Business ownership information is only available every five years, but the most recent Census figures in 2007 show that about 15 percent of all of the island's businesses are owned by Latinos. That's up from nine percent back in 2002.

The newly formed Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says that number is way off

"I think a lot of minority communities are afraid to really partake in Census so I think that number is a lot larger than what is being reported," said Bill Mehnert of the Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Danny Ortiz, founder of the Latino production company DoCo Entertainment, says he opened the place two years ago to fill what he called a nightlife void for the growing middle class population of Hispanics.

When the Puerto Rican-born Staten Islander began hosting some of salsa's biggest names at the Staten Island Hilton, he was met with some skepticism. But now, his shows are sold out.

"You could come and see Tito Nieves, Tito Rojas, Tony Vega, Hector Tricoche, you could see those guys live, here, in person, and it's an intimate setting because it's right here, it's close. Everybody enjoys it," Ortiz said.

Business owners say part of what's helped them grow their business on Staten Island is that the Latino community is so close knit. They say many clients come to them through word of mouth recommendations within the community.

"I started from Spanish people to my business. Because sometimes they don't trust other companies; they trust me, so the Spanish recommend to another Spanish," said Contractor Ephigmenio Rocha.

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