Hispanic coffee shop owner honored

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Coffee shop owner Marlene Flores, 41, of Greenvale abides by a simple philosophy: "Always be doing something."

She explains, "A minute that we don't do something, it's a minute that we lose."

The owner of Mar le Café in Glen Cove has done gigs as an insurance broker, entertained the idea of selling real estate, sold homemade food straight from her kitchen and worked in hospital administration.

Then two years ago Flores decided to do something with coffee. She spent a year traveling back and forth to her native El Salvador, learning about the ubiquitous product and eventually importing some beans to Long Island to sell to her community.

Last summer she took the next step and turned her small business into a gourmet coffee shop, selling coffee and espresso prepared from freshly ground beans imported from places such as El Salvador, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, Flores was recognized as the Hispanic Business Owner of the Year by Stony Brook's Small Business Development Center in an event hosted by Bethpage Federal Credit Union.

The recognition is for those who have taken advantage of the development center's initiative to help Hispanic business owners expand their opportunities through a series of workshops and a bilingual business counselor.

Flores said participating in the initiative helped cement her determination to open a business of her own despite the hardships she faced. Weeks after Flores signed the lease for her shop last summer, her 16-year-old son was in a traffic accident and in a coma for eight weeks -- he was only able to return home in January.

When she finally opened her shop in early October, superstorm Sandy hit three weeks later and left her without power for a week.

Reflecting on her experience, she said, "It wasn't easy, but now I feel like it's worth it."

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