Celebrating the East End's Hispanic Success Stories
The East End is home to countless entrepreneurial success stories between businesses born here and those that expanded and evolved on these twin forks. With the spotlight on Hispanic and Latin Americans during the final days of Hispanic Heritage Month, what better business success stories to celebrate than theirs?
Maria Rivero González, RGNY
In 1998, Maria Rivero González’s family planted vines in the oasis-like Parras region of northeastern Mexico, following a tradition of winemaking set in motion by the Jesuits as early as 1954. This microclimate is actually the oldest wine-growing region in North America, Rivero González explains, but despite that, there were surprisingly few wineries in Parras when her father decided to get into the wine game. At first, he had only intended to create wine as a hobby, but he had instilled too great a sense of entrepreneurship into his daughter for her to let this potential new business venture pass by.
Newly graduated from International Affairs with little business experience outside of watching her father work, Rivero González knew that innovation would be key. Mexican wine didn’t sell all too well, so marketing her family’s wine differently was a top priority. “All brands sold in Mexico looked so dated, so tired, and we went ahead and tried something completely different,” she says. “Then we started to talk to a younger audience. We approached them differently, in a more casual way.”
As for the wine itself, the Rivero González family brought back the basics, while also introducing the region’s first blanc de noir and orange wine. By 2013, they opened a store in Mexico City to sell it, then followed that with locations in Monterrey and Parras. By 2015, they were already discussing expanding globally because, despite establishing the brand successfully in Mexico, their current marketplace had limited potential. Then they discovered the Long Island wine region.
“I started looking for opportunities agro-related, and little did I know this amazing region existed in New York,” Rivero González says. “When we discovered it, we all got excited. As real estate, it made sense, and then the grapes were great and the region had so much potential being close to one of the most dynamic markets in the world.”
As fate would have it, Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead Town’s Northville hamlet had been on the market since 2014. After doing their due diligence, the family was able to complete the purchase by 2018, launching Rivero González New York, shortened to RGNY, the following year. The strategy for establishing the brand on the East End was the same as in Mexico, Rivero González shares. “Innovation is at the core of our DNA — being bold and different,” she says.”Finding the things no one has done and speaking to audiences in a more relaxed, approachable way. Going for minimal intervention winemaking techniques and teaching people through things like blending sessions, etcetera.”
Under Rivero González’s leadership, RGNY has cemented itself in the Long Island wine region with its popular wines, tasting room menu and winery store, all of which are bursting with authentic Mexican flair. “I do think our Mexican heritage influences everything we do,” she says. “As a culture, we like enjoying, and a lot of that has really shaped our event experiences. We also are hustlers and can do a lot with little, and I feel that has permeated our team culture, as well.”
To Rivero González, the most rewarding aspect of her journey to success has been the sense of community. “That has always been part of our values,” she says. “We believe we are only as strong as our community is. Today, I can proudly say that I really feel a part of the community. Being an active part of the LIWC (Long Island Wine Council) has been a personal reward for me.”
Aurelio Galvis, HDC Improvement Inc.
Another success story on the other end of the business spectrum is that of Aurelio “Lio” Galvis. Growing up in Colombia, he entered the workforce at a young age, working for the Techin-Cotecol oil company. The experience inspired him to one day launch a business of his own, but the opportunity didn’t strike in his home country.
“Like many, I left Colombia at the age of 33 in chase of the American Dream,” Galvis shares. “I came searching for better opportunities for both my family and I. Taking this opportunity meant making some sacrifices along the way, one of those including leaving my family behind for almost five years in order to establish myself before bringing them to the States.”
Not long after his plane landed in New York, his strong work ethic led him to take on two jobs — construction worker/roofer by day, dishwasher by night. Next, he transitioned to a job at a Hampton Bays restoration company, which gave him his first taste of HVAC. He found his opportunity. Galvis’s knowledge of HVAC and duct cleaning grew as he worked and learned his way to becoming a specialist, and in 2004, he was finally able to open HDC (Hamptons Duct Cleaning) Improvement Inc. “I realized in those moments that I was very amazed,” he remembers. “I found it interesting for me to start my own business of duct cleaning here in the Hamptons.”
In the beginning, the HDC team was comprised entirely of family, and word of mouth was the only way Galvis could advertise his business, but that quickly changed as more clients in the Hamptons and on the North Fork experienced his mission statement first-hand: “My strategy/goal is to always treat my customers not only as clients but more like family to make them feel comfortable and confident with our service, and to always be honest.”
With the number of clients growing thanks to a wave of glowing recommendations and “heartwarming reviews” over the last few years, Galvis was able to expand his business, which now includes a team of 10 and a service truck that allows him to take more jobs across Long Island and even in New York City. “I feel that what has fulfilled me the most is my clients’ support, and it motivates me to grow big in so many ways in my business. All those fulfilling reviews, comments and recommendations are a huge part of why my company has been a success,” he says, adding that he feels “blessed with love and support.”
Though the journey to success was admittedly “tough in the beginning” for Galvis, there’s not a doubt in his mind that it was well worth it, and he hopes others will have the courage to pursue their dreams as he did. “I always tell my people that no matter where you are from, never give up. Achieve whatever goals you have in mind, and work hard and respectfully,” he says. “I had the opportunity to fulfill the American Dream, and I encourage all those entrepreneurs to take a leap of faith.”
From Nancy’s Tailoring in Sag Harbor and Agave Grill & Cantina in Greenport to Silvio Hair Cutting in Westhampton Beach and Olga’s Deli in East Quogue, there are countless successful Hispanic-owned businesses that are woven into the fabric of the East End community, and they’re all worth celebrating.