Two Cleveland Latina Girls and a Dream…

Our dream came true in late October.

So I suppose I’m feeling sentimental.

We, two Cleveland Latina girls, opened a small home décor business in Lakewood, Ohio. Two girls who grew up under the poverty level, raised by a Spanish-speaking single mother.

On our website our About Us page briefly tells our story, but it might leave some wondering about a few things; like the word “poverty,” or more about Mamita’s (our Mom’s) story.

I can write a book about Mamita’s story, but I’ll keep it simple.

Mamita initially moved from Puerto Rico to Newark, New Jersey then on to Cleveland when our brother Ruben was four years old, my sister Karen was two years old and I was still an infant.

Cleveland is home, and we are proud of it.

Due to medical issues, Mamita wasn’t able to work. She suffers from Takayasu’s Arteritis. It is a rare disorder characterized by the progressive inflammation of one or more of the larger arteries leading from the heart. Government assistance was her only source of income. Welfare, food stamps and Medicaid. These things can have such a negative connotation, but we are grateful for them. Mamita is grateful for them.

She raised us on her own and taught us to embrace our culture. We lived below the poverty level, but Mamita focused on two things: a nice, pretty, clean home and education. Her goal for us: high school diplomas—plain and simple. That is what she dreamed for us. Maybe that doesn’t seem lofty, but for a woman who didn’t pass an elementary education, her dream for us was BIG.

Growing up, however, what resonated even more with me and Karen was Mamita’s thriftiness and home decorating. She taught us about antiques and vintage goods. She showed us how to shop at thrift stores. She taught us how to garbage pick, without shame—do it in a “own-it” fashion. She instilled in us a fondness of flea markets and “old stuff”.

Mamita, once described by a family friend as “a shark in minnow’s clothing,” is known for being thrifty and resourceful.

On her income, she has to be. She stands at 4’11”. Most people describe her as “cute” or “adorable,” and she is! She uses this, with stealth, to her advantage… She is known to flash a smile and bat her eyelashes at flea market vendors, all while she holds her little coin purse filled with quarters.

She always gets her asking price. The vendors, well they never see it coming.

As children, back in the 70’s and 80’s, Mamita frequented Unique Thrift Store on Lorain Avenue. In our younger years, she was also known for her layaway plan with Mr. Polster at Polster’s Furniture, also on Lorain Avenue. She wanted nice furniture for our home, but couldn’t afford it. She established relationships with local Cleveland businesses so she could make payments and get good quality furniture.

Despite her lack of a formal education, she was and is a smart cookie.

We learned from Mamita that your social class doesn’t have to define you. Anyone can have a nice home. Mamita has spent her life refurbishing, repurposing, refinishing and painting home décor items all in order to have a beautiful home.

She passed these gifts on to us. These gifts are our PASSION.

I think Karen and I realized this in our 20’s when we shopped at home décor stores and we would point out what we loved, and what we would do differently. So we began our journey two years ago with a blog and social media accounts. We started selling our home décor wares through our website. We opened an Etsy shop to sell our vintage finds, and we embraced our Cleveland roots by becoming vendors at the wildly popular The Cleveland Flea.

Now we turned our dream of having our own storefront into a reality.

We have worked hard for two years to get to this point, with a lifetime of true inspiration from Mamita.

I am happy to report that Mamita saw all of us walk down aisles donning our caps and gowns, accepting our diplomas.  To her delight we all have accomplishments well beyond her expectations.

These days you’ll find Mamita in her adorable Victorian-style cottage, or working in her beautiful garden in the community of West Park in Cleveland.

You’ll find me and Karen at our store, The Salvaged Boutique at 13383 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, selling refurbished, vintage and new home décor. We want to help make everyone’s home beautiful.

There is often a stereotype cast on poor, minority, inner-city children. Don’t believe it. We all have dreams, goals and aspirations… our dream came true.

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Kathy Cruz

Kathy is half of the sister-team that makes up The Salvaged Boutique. Sisters from the Cleveland, Ohio area who love to decorate and resurrect old and salvaged items, Kathy and Karen are pickers, DIY’ers, thrifters, upcyclers and furniture refurbishers. Their dream of owning a storefront became a reality with a home décor shop and studio opening on October 24, 2015 at 13383 Madison Avenue in Lakewood.

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