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West Hempstead native shares story of serving others

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Olinda’s Café owner Roberto Ramirez had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Long Island Breakfast Club on Wednesday to celebrate his first six months of business in West Hempstead. The café, Ramirez said, which was formerly named Usulutan — the name of his home country in El Salvador — was renamed after his mother, who motivated him to work hard at anything he pursues in life. While Ramirez was excited to open his restaurant at 221 Hempstead Turnpike earlier this year, he admitted that it has been a rollercoaster ride to this point.

“I’ve had those days where I would sit here by myself and think if this would work out,” Ramirez said, “but you have to have that mental toughness to know that it’s going to work.”

Having that mindset, Ramirez said, is how his parents were able to thrive. His mother is a teacher, and his father, Hector, emigrated to the U.S. in 1986, and it got to a point where he worked three jobs for 108 hours per week.

“I don’t know how the man did it,” Ramirez said, “but he had a passion to help his family. With my mother, she always told us that she was laying a foundation for my brother and I to be even better.”

Ramirez, 28, had moved to New York to live with his father in Uniondale when he was 16. After graduating from Uniondale High School in 2008, he planned to go to school for medicine, but his parents gave him the option of choosing to pursue his studies in either El Salvador or the U.S. He said that looking back, he made the right decision on staying in the U.S.

Ramirez decided to change his academic focus on a degree in business administration when he read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”

“I always had the idea of owning my own business,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew that I wanted to help people.”

While he studied at Nassau Community College in 2008, Ramirez held different jobs that included working as a bus boy, bartender and a waiter. From his positions, he took away several people skills.

“We’re in the food business serving people,” Ramirez said.

With hopes of building upon the skills that he gained over the years, Ramirez said that once he and his father had the chance to open their own restaurant, networking opportunities became apparent. Long Island Breakfast Club president Valentina Janek came across his store earlier this year, and thought that it would be a great asset to the community at large.

“What he’s doing, although it’s going to make him work more for himself, the rewards that will come out of it are going to be unbelievable,” said Breakfast Club co-founder Chris Fidis.

Ramirez, who sought to find ways to give back to the community, learned about a charity program called Project Salvador, a nonprofit organization that seeks to aid residents of El Salvador. Ramirez held a charity event for the group in September that raised over $1,000 for scholarship money.

“That might not sound like a lot,” Ramirez said, of West Hempstead, “but there, it pays for a year’s worth of school.”

As for people who aspire to pursue a career in business, Ramirez said that people have to be willing to take risks, and you must have patience.

“You’ve got to have a vision, and you have to be optimistic,” Ramirez said.