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Open for just a year, Chury’s Inc., a liquor store on Hughes Ave., is already becoming a staple in the lives of Fordham’s thirstiest students. Even if only from a distance, the beaming friendly face of Teresa Garcia, colloquially known as Chury, is familiar to all who frequent her block. Easily the most identifiable woman on Hughes, Chury has become the gatekeeper to Fordham’s nightlife. After all, we work hard play hard, right? That’s how I justify the frequency of Churys on my debit card to my mom, anyway.
Chury is the Vice President alongside her husband, but her responsibilities include so much more. She acts as the secretary, the receptionist, and also manages the business side of the small liquor store, dealing with inventory and accounting. On top of all of that, she is generous with her expertise. When you come in and ask in a panic, “I have $7 and I want a bottle Cabernet,” Chury knows without hesitation where to direct you.
Chury has lived in New York her entire life. Her parents are Ecuadorian immigrants and came to the Bronx when they were both young, her mother only 15 years old. They found a home here. As Chury discussed her parents’ early time here, she explained the struggles they encountered. According to her mother, New York was primarily Americans who didn’t speak Spanish. Her mother would frequently call her, “Cutie” but with her accent it sounded like “Chury.” And so, both a nickname and a legend were born.
How does it feel to be a known face amongst Fordham students, a sort of campus celebrity? I’m very honored. I never thought it was going to be this way. And you guys really do rock and dominate this neighborhood. Here I get working people, but the majority is Fordham. Even going to 7/11, the deli, it’s all you guys.
MJ: What do you think about the community around here?
TG: The community is very nice. It’s very different from what it was so many years ago. I remember when my father first came here he spoke a lot about prejudice. You know, the Bronx was a predominantly Italian neighborhood with only a few Latinos. We were only in the Bronx for 3 years. After that, we moved to Spanish Harlem.
MJ: Did your parents face difficulty here in regard to the prejudice?
TG: Not then, because they were fair skinned. My father was fair skinned. But there was a lot of discrimination, and it did get physical, according to what my dad used to express when he told me stories.
MJ: In regard to the neighborhood, do you have a favorite food place on Arthur Ave?
TG: I like the wines here, and I like the market. But it was very difficult in my father’s time, when he went there (the market on Arthur Avenue). It was really bad. But now it’s so welcoming to every culture.
MJ: You work alongside your husband and family members. What’s that like?
TG: I think it’s good, it’s good to have a male figure here. I’m a female and I have my children here a lot, and I’m usually by myself.
MJ: Have you ever felt uncomfortable being alone here?
TG: No, (points to glass divider) this is bulletproof by the way. I have security cameras. I feel safe here. This neighborhood is definitely not that bad.
MJ: I agree. When I tell people I go to school in the Bronx I feel like there is definitely an unfair stigma associated with the area.
TG: There is that view. But growing up was very nice. The people were very different, they were very humble and very helpful. Like say, my mother would say that when I was sick or my sibling was sick, people would be like, you know what? I’ll offer you my car and I’ll drive you to the hospital.
If you’ve walked the few steps down into Chury’s, then you know the friendly welcome you’ll receive. Whether it be from Chury, or her curious three children from behind the glass, there’s always a smile to be found. One thing that impressed me in my time on the other side of the counter was the concentration of family. When Chury’s three young children were dropped off, they happily went to the back area to play. Chury complimented her landlord for allowing her children in the backyard area, where they frequently have barbeques during nice weather. When asked about them being there, she explained, “I’m a mother, so they’re my priority. At the beginning I told my husband that if there was no way I would work if I weren’t able to have my children here. It’s hard to try to do everything at once.” Chury warmly passed off a bag of food to her husband as he left.
Chury holds a lot of responsibilities, but she performs her work with admirable grit and grace. Her family is her priority, but everyone who comes into Chury’s is welcomed like a member of it.
MJ: Do you have regulars that come in a lot that you recognize?
TG: I have regulars but I also have favorites. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember their names though. But I definitely do have regulars.
MJ: How about a drink recommendation for a memorable night?
TG: I’m going to go with my preference, my favorite drink. I’ve tried everything here. I don’t know, it might be because it’s what I drank growing up in my culture. The Cuba Libre is my favorite. And mojitos! But Cuba Libre is my preference. It’s basically Bacardi Rum Superior with Coca Cola, and you have to put a lime wedge. If you don’t put a lime wedge it’s not Cuba Libre. It’s just a rum and coke. So the lime wedge does make the difference.
MJ: The lime wedge is crucial!
TG: It has to be there! You have to squeeze the lime in it. When I go to restaurants though I don’t have them squeeze it, I have it brought and I can squeeze it myself.
In the short time I was able to watch Chury interact with customers, a man walked in looking for work, and Chury had to politely decline. She says this happens all the time, “People do come in here looking for employment, people of all cultures.” For right now, she still only has few part time positions, primarily taken up by her nephews. While it may only be family members employed there for now, that doesn’t mean it’ll be that way forever.
It’s true with any new business, especially in the competitive liquor store realm, that it’s difficult at the beginning. Chury discussed how long and difficult the process has been. “In every business you don’t know whether it’s going to grow, whether it’s going to go bad, if you’re going to go out of business. You think lots of thoughts, ‘are we going to make it? are we going to not?’ But in the beginning you always have to invest a lot of money in it- you don’t make money right away.”
MJ: Was this liquor store your initial goal?
TG: This liquor store was out of pure luck. Lets just say it that way. I always wanted to go into the restaurant business though, maybe a lounge or a little bar. But this is close to that idea. I always wanted to have different chains of it too. Chury’s is actually a company, Inc. We’re the only ones, but I have plans to have a few locations, not necessarily here, but branching out.
TG: I basically try to do everything on my own. When you do things on your own you’re able to learn from your mistakes and then be able to give advice. If I were to ever eventually have a staff I know more in order to give them advice and tell them what to do. I’m learning myself.
MJ: Do you have a plan for the future at all? Do you know where you’re headed?
TG: In 5 years I expect to see more product and more customers. If not then we’ll be forced to closed, because no one can keep losing and losing and losing and spending so much time. But it’s fun. This is something new, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. There’s something else I want to do, but it has to be a secret. It has to do with the alcohol, aside from branching out.
On that note of intrigue, I packed up my things to go, and we continued to engage in friendly chit-chat about future plans. She even turned the tables on me and asked me about my own life. That’s the thing about Chury. Even after only 30 minutes in an interview I feel like I’ve known her for years. She gave me a warm hug and I genuinely felt like I was being blessed by the Pope. She pressed a couple of tiny tequila bottles in my hand as I climbed the stone steps back onto Hughes. I walked with a bit of a spring in my step, knowing that when I would head down that same street later in the night she would be keeping an eye out.