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When 22 Equals 17

Manuel Mariñez had a formula to get into the bodega business at the young age of 22. It meant making some sacrifices, but he was sure it would work. He was right.

Manuel Mariñez had his fill working as an auto mechanic for the City of Chelsea. While the job was prestigious – he was responsible for keeping police cars and school buses running – he wanted his own business. With a partner, he bought the $100,000 Cibao Market in Roslindale, MA with only $20,000 down and a friendly loan agreement with the previous owner. They worked hard – 17 hours a day – and paid off the loan in four years.

Cibao Market Bodega
Cibao Market in Lynn, MA

Note that there are two other Cibao bodegas in New England, Cibao Market in Lynn (great facade, but owners declined to be interviewed) and Cibao Meat Supermarket in Providence, R.I. (uninspiring facade).

Cibao Meat Supermarket
Cibao Meat Supermarket in Providence, RI (©Google Streets)

Now, 22 years later, Mariñez still works 17 hours a day. It’s hard for many people to imagine. If the remainder of the time is spent sleeping, when does he eat? On the job. When does he see his family? On the job. When his children were small, he’d leave work when they were still in bed and return after they’d gone to bed. Sometimes he’d persuade his wife to keep them up until he got home.

But it’s not all that bad. Now he has employees like his wife and his uncle José Castillo, who mind the store when he leaves to work out at the gym. And Mariñez seems fit and healthy, hardly sleep deprived.

But his final revelation showed that the Cibao bodega was not only in his blood, it was grafted onto his skin of his back. He owns the whole building and that includes his home on the second floor.

Peter Bates

Peter Bates is a writer and photographer living in Florida. He is the administrator of this blog and runs the blog Stylus.

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Published in Articles & Reviews Bodega Interviews


  1. Anonymous Anonymous

    You are right about the facade on the RI bodega. Both of the others are great photos.

  2. Jim Haberman Jim Haberman

    Hi Peter, great story, very inspiring!

  3. Anonymous Anonymous

    Hard work pays off.

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