They are grocers, restaurateurs, barbers, mechanics and shop owners.

They are Floreciente. 

Across the westside section of Moline, small family-owned and independent businesses cater to the neighbor's needs. More than 50 businesses call the neighborhood home.

Carmen Fuentes, a first-generation American Hispanic, proudly operates Carmen's Jewelry store.

"I love what I'm doing," she said. "I love my city, and I love my customers. Some I've had many years." 

Following in her parents' footsteps — they had a small jewelry store in Mexico City — Fuentes landed in the business after losing a son in a bicycle accident 28 years ago. That same year, she got a divorce and lost her job. Through the dislocated worker program, she found the courage to open her own business.

"My father always told me you have two choices: Be happy or unhappy," she said. "Unhappy is bad."

Roberto and Audelia Carrillo's business venture began 10 years ago when they renovated a former bar on Railroad Avenue into a restaurant. 

"My dad is known for his carnitas, a spicy pork," said Maria Carrillo, who pulls double duty working in their El Mexicano's grocery and Tienda El Mexicano restaurant when not attending nursing school. "People started coming in just for the carnitas, buying it by the pound. So, my dad started to think: If that sells, what if I sell groceries?"

Now it's a family operation that includes brother Roberto Jr., 21, and sister Guadalupe, 23. It also serves as a neighborhood gathering spot.

"Most people that come in, we greet by name," said Maria Carrillo, speaking for her parents. "It would be nice to find a bigger building, be we don't want to move from the neighborhood and all our faithful clients."

In an effort to help the neighborhood's businesses, Global Communities is creating a network to unify the owners and equip them with information and resources.

"Our push (to them) is: How can your service become more accessible to the population of Floreciente?" said Luis Pereira, the organization's economic development manager. "There are shared interests, such as infrastructure, beautification and marketing."

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Partners are offering various technical assistance workshops — in English and Spanish — on market feasibility, market data, taxes, payroll, business plans and digital marketing.

Luis Lopez is one of the newest business owners, having opened Dulceria La Michoacana in a vacant storefront a year ago with his wife, Josefina. Their sons, Jorge and Luis Jr., also lend a hand at the candy store. By day, Lopez works full-time job for Midland Davis.

No longer residents in Floreciente but elsewhere in Moline, Lopez said through a translator, "A lot of people have roots here. They've moved out, but they come back."

Armando Calderon is another former Floreciente resident who now draws most of his work from the neighborhood for his Calderon Construction Inc., Rock Island.

Despite his hectic schedule, he has been devoted to Global Communities' efforts as a volunteer. He said Global Communities has been helpful to business owners.

"Things are picking up," Calderon said. "There is a good future for Floreciente."

At The New Style Barbershop, Miguel Rosas, 31, and his eight barbers keep so busy they need "traffic control" inside the shop on weekends. With brightly painted sports logos on the exterior, Rosas wanted to make his business "a landmark in the area that people will want to come to."

A Boys & Girls Club kids growing up, he said this is a perfect time for the neighborhood to take advantage of resources before the Amtrak train arrives.

"The next two years, we're going to see a lot of differences down here," he predicted.

George Barajas' family-owned Old Mexico restaurant sits across the Moline border in Rock Island, but the owners consider themselves part of Floreciente.

The Barajas family has been in the restaurant business since 1965 when his parents, Dolores "Lolita" and John "Juanito" Barajas, first opened Lolita's Taco House in Moline. A Lolita's still operates in Silvis, and the founders' daughter, Dolores Abarca, helps run it.

George Barajas is focusing on Floreciente for a future business venture, a reception hall.

"I want to use my expertise in food and create events to help other organizations raise funds," he said. "This is just the beginning."

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