Patricia Guzman, whose family owns the Monterry Mexican Restaurant in the center of Bristol says when they first opened, there were no other similar restaurants in the area. “It’s hard to get established here,” she said, noting more and more of their customers are now, not Latinos. “Once people get to know you and you deliver good service, you do well.”
The Guzman family is among the Latino entrepreneurs who have ventured from some of the traditional urban sites and are doing well in the state’s smaller cities like Bristol. With a population of just over 50,000, this central Connecticut city has seen also seen a growing number of Latino families calling it home. As a result, the second largest ethnic population in Bristol are Hispanics, and Hispanic students make up nearly one-quarter of the student population.
Surprisingly to some perhaps, the PEW Center’s Hispanic Trends Project reports that Bristol is ranked 55th on a list of the 60 metropolitan areas in the country with the largest Hispanic populations. The complete list is in the appendix to the report, which is posted at http://www.pewhispanic.org/ 2012/09/19/characteristics-of- the-60-largest-metropolitan- areas-by-hispanic-population/
Bristol’s Latino/ Hispanic population is 5,686 Latinos, and data from CERC (Connecticut Economic Resource Center), provides a snapshot of what type of jobs Bristol’s Latinos hold. Among the 2,296 Latinos surveyed in Bristol between 2008-2012, many work in service occupations while other employment fields include, sales and office jobs, transportation or production and construction or maintenance.
Many of the city’s Hispanic have gravitated to Bristol’s west end neighborhood. Auto repair shop owner Dave Hamelin, is president of the local neighborhood group and calls it a ‘melting pot’. Adding that, affordable store front rents and the association’s credibility make the neighborhood a good choice for small businesses with a niche. “The West End is perfect opportunity; particularly for home-based businesses willing to grow,” he said. “We have landlords willing to work with you and an association willing to back you.”
It’s difficult to determine exactly how many Latino business exist throughout Bristol; the city’s largest business group, the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, said it does not keep such records. “The Chamber doesn’t do anything particular to attract or retain members by ethnicity, or any other particular demographic group,” said James Albert, president and CEO of the chamber.
Not all Hispanic businesses have fared well; the well-known Peruvian owned Latinos Restaurant, which was located in the Forestville district of town for almost five years, recently closed its doors. Its owner, Eduardo Garces said that his business, while it attracted Latinos and non-Latinos, was a new product known to many in a new market.
“Bristol may not have been the best town for this kind of restaurant, but we loved a challenge,” said Garces. “It is now that we have set the trend that people are craving the atmosphere, flavors and the livelihood and friendliness of the Latino community as a whole. We hope our restaurant help teach Bristol to get together and leave races, sadness and misjudgments outside our door. We enjoyed every moment of it, and look forward to doing it again in the near future.”