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Many Filipinos dream to work overseas for a variety of reasons. You want a better life, provide a better education for your kids, financial security, a place you can call your own, and the list is endless.
Unfortunately, being an OFW is not forever. You need to make the most out of your stay because as soon as your contract ends, you have to come back home and look for another job. But to some other people particular here in the United States if you a got a green card or permanent residency you prefer to stay and to have your own life or maybe to establish your own business.
I met a lovely couple 11 years ago namely; Celso “Nilo” Concepcion and Rosario “Rose” Javier Concepcion, a native of Nueva Ecija who are the owners of 5 establishments today so-called ‘SARILING ATIN”. They started the business in 2007, with sufficient savings, the couple decided to venture into their own business instead of working for others and making others richer at their expense. It was something about food, man’s basic necessity that they opted to have for this is something one cannot live without.
Toms River, New Jersey, specifically at 1561 Lakewood Rd., became home to RJ Sariling Atin Fast Food & Oriental Grocery. The “R” stands for Rocel (fused first syllables of Rosario and Celso’s names), the couple’s firstborn and “J” for Julia, their 19-year old youngest daughter.
With the fullest measure of dedication, perseverance and hard work, success couldn’t be far from being attained. In just merely a span of six years, the couple’s dream of putting up a business in the Big Apple started to show signs in the offing.
“I fervently prayed for this elusive opportunity for years.” Nilo turned serious while speaking in a much lower tone but with precise words. “I pleaded for His enlightenment and guidance to lead me to where in NY I should set up my business. I was prayerful I know but never this solemn as I did for the realization of this dream. There were early signs but only left me in a quandary.”
And as if the heavens heard what he implored, three days later, Nilo received a call from a relative who lives in Elmhurst, Queens and related to him about a vacant space somewhere in Queens Boulevard, a former furniture showroom adjacent to Queens Macy’s Mall and a stone’s throw away from Macy’s Center Mall.
After a thorough vicinity inspection and feasibility study, enthusiasm built, even more, when he got the lease of the property in an instant.
But his enthusiastic spirit nearly succumbed to the unceasing demands and prolonged challenge of mounting paper works and the snail-paced process he encountered in securing permits and completing legal matters. The completing construction of the store was the only consolation that mattered.
“We incurred an almost mind-boggling process but giving up was never an option,” he shared.
He vividly recounted the patience-consuming wait for the final approval of their business permit that tested his remaining tenacity and tolerance to the fullest. Their remaining fund was getting slimmer with the passing of time. Even the building owner supported them and offered financial assistance.
Indeed, all that’s well ends well! After waiting for 6 months, all the papers were signed. RJ Sariling Atin has finally found a new home in Queens along 89-12 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst, NY (11373).
The much-awaited opening posted an even much unforeseen challenge after witnessing the heavy turnout of anxious customers that totaled to a little over seven hundred. The modest size space they thought would just be perfect to accommodate their customers became too small. But they just have to bear with it…at the moment.
Since day one a great number of customers, old and new, have passed through the portals of Sariling Atin and left with a great food experience laced with the typical Filipino hospitality. Their satisfaction reflects nothing but only the heightened level of home-cooking style and high standard food quality they were served.
As if the daily growing clientele wasn’t enough for Nilo and Rose to be completely fulfilled, just recently, after only five months in operations, RJ Sariling Atin was deservingly recognized by food blogger Jessica Allen of We Heart New York on Fox 5 as one among NYC’s 5 Best Restaurants For Filipino Food in 2014.
To quote: “From the name alone you can tell that SARILING ATIN means business. You won’t find any fusion or high-falutin’ combinations here. Instead, this Elmhurst restaurant/grocery store serves straight-up homestyle Filipino food. It’s a family-run establishment with a sister joint in New Jersey. Try the fried pork knuckles, broiled milkfish, pancit canton (similar to lo mein), or pancit malabon (distinctive yellow-orange noodles heavy on the seafood). And make sure to end your meal with the shaved ice treat known as halo-halo.”
After a couple of years, the business in New York was established, they opened another branch in September 2018 in BERGEN County New Jersey which is located at 48-E Main St., Bergenfield, New Jersey 07621. Bergen County is a place where you can find a lot of Filipino residents and mostly Asians and Hispanics origin. The business continues growing and they succeed for what they planned for a long time. While the fifth establishment was opened last November 23, 2019, located at 125 Mallory Ave., Jersey City, New Jersey 07304.
Currently, RJ Sariling Atin is a Family business, owned and managed by Nilo and Rose, their 2 children and some other members of the family.
“Actually, after working so diligently Nilo and Rose plan to retire back home where he wants to farm and raise livestock coz they said…after all at the end, there will be only the two of us together while our children might have settled down and started to raise a family of their own.”