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Most of us are familiar with the anxiety and excitement of reaching adulthood, packing up the car and setting our sights on a new city. Often including a safety tether to parental stability, the risk is clearly softened. But imagine the unknown when you are crossing continents and no two-way ticket to a friendly money stream exists. Most immigrants know the story, and it’s all the more impressive when they eventually turn the tenuous beginnings into a successful business. Mt. Kisco is home to two such stories.
Marcos Lozano came to the United State in 1994 at the age of 17, and while much drama was probably involved in the subsequent journey, the emigration echoes a sentiment that goes back to the Pilgrims. “I was looking for a better life,” said Lozano.
Having cousins in Carmel to settle with, he arrived in absence of the English language, but was ready to do what it took. “The first few years, I worked as a dishwasher,” he said.
Bettering His Better Life
Of course, anyone who’s ever been relegated to that station knows things must change before you start to question your choices. After two years and a lot of dishes, he realized, “I’ve got to work toward something else.”
Lozano would rise to the level of chef. However, the relentless pace and high temperatures was not something that interested him. But as he started to get to know more people in the area, the path to another emigration begun.
He worked first in landscaping and then hooked on with a construction company for three years. The step up, though, didn’t mean he had arrived at the better life he originally sought.
As he worked his construction job, Lozano began buying at car auctions and selling the autos as his first business venture. “I like doing my own thing,” he says.
Doing His Own Thing
With this business eventually reaching its limit, Lozano Construction took his entrepreneurship to the next level. Knowing enough of construction at this point, he said, "I still wanted my own business.”
He had saved some money and could at least set aside the risk of landing in debt if the venture failed. So Lozano started small in 2002. “I did small things like patios and walkways, but now home renovations and home building are more typical,” said the father of three.
Of course, immigrants sometimes can come up against prejudice in the pursuit of their particular brand of happiness. Having two cases last year that seemed suspect, he finds those experiences to be the exception. “People have mostly been fair and friendly,” he says.
As might be expected, language is a hurdle he must still rise above but not where you’d think. On the job, he knows his work and can explain everything that needs to be communicated. In contrast, it’s the small talk that sometimes gets him. “Then it gets a little complicated,” said Lozano.
High Road From China
Nearby, Vicky Zheng of Footsie Reflexology can concur. “It’s been pretty hard to learn English,” says the Chinese born immigrant who is set up on 213 East Main Street.
She hopes once her two young children have grown that she can get back to school to improve her language skills. But the limitation has not held her back since arriving in 1996. After doing her time as a waitress in Brooklyn, she moved to Mt. Kisco and opened her own Restaurant.
After 15 years of rigorous restaurant work, the toll was taken. “My body was getting worn down,” said Zheng.
Aching Back Turns Into Business
Since she already had some experience with an aching body in China, her education in massage and foot reflexology had begun before coming to America. She eventually completed her licensing here and a healthier occupation awaited.
In doing so, she also deferred on the loan money needed to startup and went with her own savings. Thus far in service for about a year, she compares a tree’s roots to the importance of feet. “For a tree to be strong, the roots have to be strong, and the same goes for your feet and your body,” said Zheng.
So the $28 half-hour long foot work-over really means alleviating the back, neck, and shoulder strains, infractions we all acquire from being hunched over a computer or saddled to long commutes. On the upper limit of offerings, $98 sits customers in the darkened serenity of her center for a two-hour long body massage of the same order.
Either way, she recommends a weekly regimen, and the returns have shown a welcoming feeling to this community. "People are friendly and treat us almost as family,” she says.
America - Up and Down and Up
No matter, the economy doesn’t discriminate and business is a struggle for everyone these days. Regardless, she carries an optimistic outlook that is sometimes harder to acknowledge for those of us who have been here longer. “I have faith that the American economy will return to normal,” she says.
Lozano would likely second and reiterates the foundation of all American dreams by way of his 17-year-old, college-bound son. While Dad wants Saul to be a “professional man” who succeeds him educationally, he hopes the example provided by Lozano Construction is not lost in the books and the bachelor’s degree. “I want you to be your own boss,” he tells him.
America, the story never gets old.
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