South Philadelphia: From Factory Worker to Entreprenuer

Martín Herrera assisted costumers at Variedades Veracruzana.

“Variedades” about says it right.

Located at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue in the Italian Market, Variedades Veracruzana (Veracruz Varieties) highlights Mexican-American culture by selling an assortment of Mexican packaged food items as well as attire and religious figurines.

Martín Herrera sat in a low chair behind the glass counter of the grocery store. He has been helping his sister-in-law run the store since 2002. Herrera came to the United States in 1988 from Puebla, Mexico. He first came to New York, where he met his wife, who is also from Puebla. Herrera mentioned that many immigrants from Puebla found a home in the tri-state area.

Herrera worked in a copper laminate factory an hour north of New York City until December 2001 when he and his wife moved on to Philadelphia to begin the next chapter of their lives.

Martín Herrera assisted costumers at Variedades Veracruzana.

“It is a totally different experience from the factory in New York,” Herrera said. “Working with family is the best thing to do.”

Herrera said  the experience of running a business brings on new challenges, but also the risk of not getting a paycheck.

“When you work in a factory, you will always get your payment, but when you run a business, you’ve got to know what to do. If you don’t know, you’re not going to be successful,” Herrera added.

However, Herrera said he understands that the times are changing for entrepreneurs like he and his family and that a quality education is a very important asset. With only two years of high school in the United States, Herrera is adamant about his daughter, a junior in high school, receiving a good education.

Herrera’s story is one example of the Hispanic-immigrant experience in Philadelphia. While his sister-in-law still resides in South Philadelphia, Herrera and his immediate family live in the suburbs of Delaware County.

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