Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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Oral history interview conducted by Bahati Williams
May 15, 2008
Call number: 2008.030.41
Oral History Interview with Juan Solano
Juan Solano, born 1952, was the proprietor and optician at Solano Optical. Solano's first job out of high school was as a shipping clerk for a local optician. From age eighteen to age forty, Solano worked at a large variety of optical retailers, where he learned the business, eventually earning his bachelor's degree and becoming a licensed optician. At the age of forty-two, Solano and his wife took a second mortgage on their home, and used the money to open the first Solano Optical. At the time of the 2008 interview, Solano and his wife had recently purchased their own building, which included a storefront and residential rental property.
In this interview, Juan Solano, owner of Solano Optical, reflects on his personal journey as an entrepreneur, which began with his first job as a shipping clerk at an optician's office and ended with the purchase of a mixed-use building which provided Solano a stable storefront, residential rental income, and a family home. At some points, Solano becomes emotional as he describes his experiences, including ups and downs such as the loss of five different stores due to rising rents, non-renewed leases, and recession. Solano describes the United States healthcare system as broken, citing the managed care system as a chief example. He speaks at length about his own lenses, which are transition bifocals. Solano voices his experiences with major crime: scuffles with illegal vendors of counterfeit and stolen goods; being victimized by gang activity; and suffering an armed robbery. Near the interview's end, Solano discusses the perks of membership in the Fulton-Nostrand United Merchants Association and other forms of leadership in the local business community. In the final minutes, Solano intolerantly refers to the nearby Hasidic Jewish community. Interview conducted by Bahati Williams.
Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) partnered on the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral history project in 2007-2008 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Restoration's founding as the first community development corporation (CDC) in the United States. Nearly sixty interviews were conducted with founding Board members, supporters, activists, artists, tenants, and other community members. Audio clips from these oral history interviews were included in the exhibit "Reflections on Community Development: Stories from Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation" (BHS 2008, Restoration 2009).
CitationSolano, Juan, Oral history interview conducted by Bahati Williams, May 15, 2008, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories, 2008.030.41; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- Fulton-Nostrand United Merchants Association
- Solano Optical Boutique Ltd.
- Solano, Juan, 1952-
- Business enterprises
- Enterprise zones
- Medical care
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- New York (N.Y.)
Finding AidBedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories