Waiting for Gentrification: Hard Times for South Bronx Restaurants
Alfredo Diego Pacheco inside his now-closed restaurant, Coqui Mexicano. Pacheco says he’ll give the restaurant business another try someday. (Photo by Stuart White)
MELROSE, THE BRONX (2/8/2012) – With the completion of developments like the mixed-use, mixed-income Melrose Commons buildings, and new, successful loft spaces in the Piano Factory and Clocktower buildings, many like Alfredo Diego Pacheco thought gentrification was well on the way to making the South Bronx fertile ground for healthy, unique restaurants catering to a young, urban professional clientele. However, when the global recession hit in 2008, the gears of gentrification ground to a halt, leaving risk takers like Pacheco high and dry. Read the full story here, at City Spoonful.
Alfredo Diego Pacheco likes to tell the story of the day he stood in a bar downtown, rooting for Spain in the final game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. His friends had told him that his team didn’t stand a chance, and even in a bar full of Spanish tourists, he says, he was one of the few who held out hope.
To this day, Pacheco’s face lights up when he recounts how Iker Casillas—then goalkeeper for the Spanish national team—blocked a one-on-one shot from the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben, paving the way for the first Spanish win in history.
It was a great day, says Pacheco, but for him the best part of the story came just a few months later, when Casillas visited his restaurant on the corner of Brook and 3rd Avenues in the South Bronx.
“That’s one of the memories that makes me want to cry,” Pacheco said, standing outside the now-shuttered Coqui Mexicano. “But that’s alright; everything happens for a reason.”
Coqui Mexicano went through what Pacheco calls “the perfect storm,” finally closing after a three-year struggle that traced the arc of the great recession. His ordeal is emblematic of the situation of many New York restaurants in newly gentrifying neighborhoods—neighborhoods that quickly stagnated as development capital disappeared in the wake of the financial collapse.