By Michael Green

Fairhill: Hispanic Culture and Business Shine on El Bloque de Oro

Fairhill: Hispanic Culture and Business Shine on El Bloque de Oro
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In Fairhill, Latino culture and business converge on North Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue to form what has become affectionately known as “El Bloque de Oro,” or the “Golden Block.” Here, Latino-owned small businesses run up and down the strip, imbuing a cultural identity on the neighborhood which, according to the 2010 census, is 80.6 percent Hispanic.

Christina Gonzalez / Centro Musical

Christina Gonzalez of Centro Musical talked with a customer.

Figured prominently on 464 W. Lehigh Ave. is Centro Musical, which provides Latin music to Fairhill’s Latino community, as well as musical instruments and Puerto Rican souvenirs.

Christina Gonzalez, whose father started the business in the late 1950s, manages the store. She said Latino culture stands as a source of cohesion and unity in Bloque de Oro.

“This area is known as the ‘melting pot,’ where all the Latinos unite,” she said. “We have a lot of businesses in this district from all different areas – Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican. Most of the businesses are geared toward that culture and that unity.”

Just down the street is Fifth Street Florists on 2830 N. Fifth St. The owner, Mildred Izaguirre, opened the shop in 2003 next to her parents’ dry cleaning store. Izaguirre said the reason Bloque de Oro is so popular in the neighborhood is because the business owners work closely with and for their customers.

Mildred Izaguirre / Fifth Street Florists

Mildred Izaguirre, owner of Fifth Street Florists, arranged flowers for an order.

“We work with the customers that come in,” she said. “They help us, we help them. A lot of times we just know them from around the neighborhood. And most of the business owners in the neighborhood are Latino, which helps make a lot of the Latino customers comfortable.”

Across the street from Fifth Street Florists is Jerry’s Ladies Fashions, a clothing retail store which has catered to the women of the community for more than 85 years.  The store is owned and operated by Kevin Schaff, who said his business tries to provide clothing to match the ethnic flare of Bloque de Oro.

Owner Kevin Schaff and Iriz Cartagena stood together inside Jerry’s Ladies Fashion.

“There’s a lot of Hispanic flavor in the neighborhood from all of the different Hispanic countries,” he said. “They all have their bit of flavor and culture mixed in. It really presents itself in a colorful, fun and exciting way and it shows on the people’s faces.”

Schaff said he hopes the business community will continue to grow and evolve while maintaining its Latino cultural identity.

“I’d love to see this area really come to life,” he said. “It’s always going to be exciting because it’s the heart of the community in the Spanish area, but if it were full and vibrant, that’d be the best thing. And I’m sure it will be.”

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