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#1578: Convenience store her destiny, says Haitian immigrant (fwd)


Convenience store her destiny, says Haitian immigrant 
__by NANCY NGO STAFF WRITER ____Published: Monday, December 20, 1999
PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press

 Elsie Mayard doesn't mind that she'll be working on Christmas Day    
-- or New Year's Day, for that matter.  After this year's financial
setbacks, the mother of four is glad to be  working at all. Mayard, 36,
reopened Frogtown Market this weekend in a new Vadnais Heights location,
and she credits the good will of others for   making that possible.
 Mayard's life began to crumble around her in March, when she learned
  that her St. Paul home would go into foreclosure: Her mortgage     
company had sent her a letter, but it went to the wrong address, so she 
failed to respond.  Just four months later, her Frogtown Market -- then
on University  Avenue in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood -- closed
after the ceiling collapsed a second time from water damage. Maynard,
who purchased the store in 1997, has yet to be reimbursed for the
damage. ``I had nothing,'' she said. ``I wanted to die.'' With a loan
from the Twin Cities office of the Small Business  Administration,
Mayard had just enough money to reopen the store at its new location --
on the southeast corner of U.S. 61 and County Road E in Vadnais Heights
-- but not to stock its shelves.  That's where her friends came in.
A crew from PepsiCo Inc. cleaned and set up donated shelves and coolers
for opening day. Fleming Foods, Kemps and Frito-Lay  stocked the store's
coolers and shelves with free products.``You can say we've gone a little
overboard,'' admitted Bruce Hudson,key account manager with PepsiCo. He
said he has done business with Mayard for more than a year and wants to
see her do well. PepsiCo also is offering discounts on products for the
first month and is holding a drawing for a train set at the store.    
Mayard said she knew running such a store was her calling when she     
came to the United States from Haiti in 1983. She had grown up helping
at her parents' grocery store and clothing shop.``I was always there as
a kid. I did pretty much everything,'' she said.`I like it very much.''
Mayard still has a lot of territory to cover after the reopening. The
5,000-square-foot store is almost three times larger than its
predecessor, and several shelves are still empty.  Still, Mayard's
attorney, Donna Rae Johnson of St. Paul, is surprised at how quickly
Mayard has recovered.She's an amazing woman,'' Johnson said. ``After all
these catastrophes that have happened in the last year, she's moving
forward anyway.''