This summer Maria Cano (aka the Arepa Lady) moved her thriving Colombian street-food business into a storefront in Queens, N.Y., her first brick-and-mortar restaurant. For Cano, 70, it was a measure of hard-won success after selling arepas (cornmeal “pancakes”) from a street cart for more than two decades.
For Auria Abraham, 45, success has come more quickly—she launched her Malaysian sambal business last summer, after working as a jingle producer in the advertising industry for more than a decade. Her unapologetically spicy condiment is already on store shelves throughout New York City, and plans for new products are in the works.
Speaking through a translator, the two women note the importance of using their food businesses to create a legacy—both cultural and financial—for their children.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it feels very good,” Cano tells Abraham. “The thing that feels the best is to have my kids involved and see them accomplish so much. They picked up the flag and they’re carrying my business.”
Audio produced by Miranda Shafer. Translation by Natalia Perlaza. Photos by Lily Chin.