Fanny by Michelle Barahona EscotoNeighborhood Economy and Small Business

Fanny is the owner of Millennium Restaurant and Grill at 3094 Roxbury St in Egleston Square. The first time I meet her she is wearing colorful geometric leggings, a black t-shirt, and a black bandana around her head. She is normally found at the counter serving food for customers. The interior of the restaurant has dull yellow walls, small rectangle tables, and yellow chairs. There are many images of the community on the wall at the entrance. The pictures are of different small shops and murals from around the neighborhood. Bachata and Salsa play from the speaker that Fanny has near the cashier. There are 4 TVs, 3 of them are on the wall on top of where you order food and the other one is across the room. The TVs on the wall on top of where you order food are not on and the other one is usually showing a Telemundo program or the Weather Channel.

The restaurant is a hangout place for teenagers and young adults in Fanny’s life and many are not customers of the restaurant. However, the majority of the customers are regulars and live or work near the restaurant. There is a lot of respect between the community members and the restaurant workers. Every time a customer leaves the restaurant with their food or goes to sit at the tables to eat, the worker at the counter says “Buen provecho,” Spanish for “Enjoy your meal.” In the morning when customers enter the restaurant, they say “Buenos dias” and the worker’s name after. In the afternoon, it’s the same but with “Buenas tardes.” Everyone seems to know each other’s names. Since the restaurant workers know the majority of the customers they have conversations that are held between friends. One time, while a customer was waiting for his food, he started talking to Fanny. They talked about how one of her friends was at the hospital. They didn’t talk about why her friend was at the hospital but it was clear that they both knew why. Another time, two men entered and ordered food. When Fanny noticed them she said “Hola amores, ¿Como estan?” [Hello, my loves, how are you?] They responded, “todo bien.” [All good.] That same day, three construction workers enter. Two black men and a white guy. One of the black men recognizes the man behind the counter. The man behind the counter says “What’s up man! When’s football season?” They continue having a conversation and at the end the man behind the counter says “Enjoy the food man” and the customer says “Oh I will.”

The warmth of the restaurant that Fanny has built is present even with first time customers. This was most clear the first time that I visited her. Although we had only met briefly and barely exchanged names before my first observation, 35 minutes in she offered me food. The food is on display, like at a cafeteria and there are many selections. I ordered Carne de Res Guisada and Arroz con Gandules at the counter. Arroz con Gandules is rice, pigeon peas, and sometimes pork cooked together. Carne de Res means stewed beef. She served the food to me on a medium oval plate and asked me what I wanted to drink, to which I responded “Ginger ale.” She gave me the metal silverware wrapped in a napkin, which is the typical silverware with the round bottom with designs.

A young woman works at the counter when Fanny isn’t there. She usually wears a dark colored sweatshirt and dark wash jeans. Her hair is a dirty blonde color with red streaks. Another young man is with her behind the counter. He wears black t-shirts and baggy jeans. When I enter the store for my second observation three young men enter behind me. I was waiting in line so I could give the young women the copy of the signed consent form. While I was waiting, one of the young men asked me if is it was a job application. He told me he worked there and that he can see it. I told him it was a consent form. He said “just stay in line” and didn’t ask anymore questions. He didn’t work at the restaurant and was just a worker’s friend. He wasn’t a worker but he knew everyone very well, even the cook, he knew everyone’s names.

There is another young man who was here the last time I was here. Since a couple left, he went to go clean the table. The three young men are outside and I can hear them saying “That’s bullshit” and they are being loud. A young black man who was one of the three that entered behind me enters the restaurant again and he starts doing a handshake with the 7 year old boy that’s at the restaurant. After doing the handshake, the young woman tells the boy to get the plate from the table. I decide to talk to the 7 year old boy because he kept looking at me. He says he didn’t go to school because he was sick. I asked him what he was learning in school and he told me he wasn’t learning anything. I asked him to guess what grade I was in. He said 8th grade. When I said that I was in a higher grade, he was really surprised, his eyes got really big. He asked me “High School? 12th?” I told him I was in 11th. I asked him if he wanted to travel and he immediately said no. I asked him if he was sure and he said he wasn’t sure.

Another time, a woman with a cane entered with a man behind her. The man is wearing a black sweatshirt that reaches past his knees and baggy jeans. She is waiting for the men to be done for her to order. She notices that the man that entered with her is not beside her and looks back. She asks “¿Qué estas haciendo? ¿Par donde tu vas?” [What are you doing? Where are you going?}He responds “Para alli. Tengo que cargar mi teléfono.” [Over there. I need to charge my phone.] She tells him to charge it near the table at the corner instead of near the entrance. She then asks him if he wants to eat. He tells her he isn’t hungry but she still orders him soup. She ask him what he wants to drink. He says Pepsi.

A women enters the restaurant and she says “Yo sabia qué iban a estar aqui” [I know what you’re doing here] to the man and women who ordered soup, then they start to talk about drug tests that they need to do. The man starts saying that marijuana stays in your system even after a few days. They are worried that they might not pass. The women who had just entered yells “¿Como has estado Fanny?” [How have you been Fanny?] when she notices Fanny exiting the kitchen. A man enters and is waiting to order his food. While he is waiting he sings along to the song that is playing on the speakers.

The customers and the employees at Millennium Restaurant and Grill have a connection that not many people have. There is a consistent and strong sense of respect and friendship between the workers and customers.