Day care owners say government, former landlord will sink them

Day care owners say government, former landlord will sink them

Luis Briceno and Yulissa Junco say their El Bebe Day Care won't be able to compete with the new Progreso Excellence Academy, a nonprofit day care. The sign for PEA is visible in the background. (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - Luis Briceno and Yulissa Junco say they felt completely comfortable signing on the dotted line. They had carefully built up their day care business bit by bit, saving enough money over five years to buy the building they loved.

The couple, under the business name R.I. Management Services, bought the building at 197 Beverage Hill Ave. for $400,000 in January, a long-term investment for their El Bebe Day Care business.

About three months ago, Briceno and Junco noticed a little sign go up in the window across the street from them, a building also owned by their long-time former landlord, David MacDonald and Beverage Hill Properties. The sign said that a day care facility was coming, news Briceno said he had no problem with because it would bring more business to the area.

Within the past month, Briceno and Junco learned that this new day care would have the power to sink them.

They learned that MacDonald, a board member at Progreso Latino and founder of The Children's Workshop, was moving to open a nonprofit Head Start day care center right across the street from their for-profit facility. The center will bear the Progreso Latino name.

Briceno said he understands the idea of American capitalism, that Walgreens stores pop up across the street from CVS stores and McDonald's move in across the street from Burger King, but this is no competition. A federally funded nonprofit day care center will make it impossible for him to do business here, forcing him to close his doors almost immediately.

"If they bring in free childcare 10 feet from my business, I'm going to have to close," he said. "There's no way I'm going to survive."

The prices at El Bebe range from $135 to $150 per week, but most people don't pay nearly that amount out of their own pocket, said Junco and Briceno.

Junco said if she and her husband had known about the plan for a new day care, they never would have bought the building. MacDonald never rented to a day care in his building next door because he knew he'd lose El Bebe as a tenant, she said. When she and her husband bought the building, he no longer had to worry about losing them.

"That hit below the belt," she said.

The "big issue" here is that Head Start "is public and free," said Briceno.

"I pay taxes. I'm a profit; they're a nonprofit," he said.

"This is government competing against private business," said Junco.

Attempts to reach MacDonald and officials from Progreso Latino were not successful.

"PEA," or the "Progreso Excellence Academy," must still get its city zoning and state licensing approvals, said Briceno, but fighting those will be an uphill battle.

To get a certificate for free child care at El Bebe from the Department of Human Services, a parent needs to be working 25 hours a week or be going to school, said Junco. To get it at the Progreso Excellence Academy, the parent won't have to be working or going to school, but will only need to meet income requirements.

"It's pretty much for free," she said. "They're not pushing anyone to better themselves."

Most of El Bebe's children come from the Prospect Heights housing complex just a few feet away, said Briceno. If this was a for-profit day care coming in, El Bebe could compete with better service, better prices, and maybe even a better playground, he said, but it won't be possible with a nonprofit next door.

What makes it hurt even more, said Briceno, is that the organization behind the new day care is Progreso Latino, an organization that helped him learn English when he emigrated here from Venezuela 20 years ago.

Briceno and Junco, who also own a day care in Providence, say they've hired a lawyer but have been advised that they really won't have a case that they've been harmed until after they go out of business.

"There's really nothing that we can do," said Junco.

Junco said that parents of children at El Bebe have been concerned since they learned that the day care is in danger of closing. Many have been with El Bebe for a long time and love the programs here, especially the karate classes, she said.

Dylan Zelazo, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien, said the administration is aware of El Bebe's situation and feels bad for the owners, but the administration doesn't see any way to stop the new day care facility, as it complies with current zoning for the area.

"The city isn't in the business of picking winners and losers," he said.

Briceno and Junco said that other board members at Progreso Latino weren't aware that MacDonald's proposal for an academy was actually a day care until the couple sent a letter informing them. There should have been more research done before any day care was approved to determine what impacts it might have on surrounding business owners, they said.

"It's very contradicting of what their mission statement says," said Junco. Progreso Latino pushes for Latinos to grow and bring something to the community, something she and her husband have done throughout their time in Pawtucket, she said.

Briceno said he reached out in the past week to Head Start to see if he too could bring the program to El Bebe. Though the idea is a long shot, he said, the request will be considered at a meeting this Friday.

Comments

Just a placeholder to say, yes, more on this to come. I was VERY happy when I watched Luis Briceno and Yulissa Junco open their business, in my neighborhood. Now, it appears an unfair competition has been brought to their front steps. Let's not forget, MacDonald, a board member at Progreso Latino and founder of The Children's Workshop, is not personally non-profit, is he? What paycheck does he get? More to come. Thank you, Ethan Shorey for bringing this story to the light of day!

Too bad,this is a free country.

"The city isn't in the business of picking winners and losers," he said.
If El Bebe Day Care close business, then the city loose revenue that we'll have to cover with higher taxes, not to mention unemployment direct and indirect. Get ready for next elections....

If el bebe closes that means higher taxes for the city? You have to be joking!

One business closing on top of other ones that already close will just add debt to the city. Of course, some people doesn't care because they like to promote the "living at others expense.

The second daycare that popped up was waiting in the background for El Babe to grow and bring in a significant amount of kids to the program. Once that was done, which is the toughest part, they now go in and steal the kids from el babe and take them across the street for free

Free country? Nah. Somebody has to pay. Nothing is free.