Warwick has a new supermarket, but it’s not what you might expect or a location known to those looking to fill the weekly shopping list.
Mayor Joseph Solomon had difficulty finding the market last Tuesday. The mayor drove the length of Chestnut Street off Post Road only to discover it ends at Amtrak before reaching the number 177.
There’s another half to Chestnut Street off Jefferson Boulevard, however, there’s no sign. Solomon vowed to remedy the sign by the end of the day. He put in the call to the Department of Public Works before stepping into Rhode Island’s first Metal Supermarkets to be greeted by Rumen Dimitrov, his wife, Kamelia Rousseva, and their daughter, Lora Dimitrova, a first-grader at Cedar Hill. There was a good deal many more people as well, employees of another of Dimitrov’s ventures across the street that provides on-ground services for FedEx.
A Canadian-based franchise, Metal Supermarkets has more than 90 stores in Canada and the U.S. It bills itself as “the convenience stores for metal,” offering people the opportunity to buy small quantities of metals to suit the job. The selection is vast ranging from rods and pipes of different sizes to sheets, square tubes, beams, tread plates and angle irons. The types of metals are equally varied from stainless steel and bronze to aluminum, copper and hot and cold rolled steel.
Dimitrov said the store is ideally located just off Jefferson Boulevard and around the corner from Interstate 95, “the hub of the state.”
Solomon was impressed by the warehouse with its neatly arranged racks of metal stock. He stood over a sheet of grated steel, looking puzzled until Dimitrov suggested he could cut out a section to easily fit a home grill. Against one wall was a long machine used for bending sheets of metal. Dimitrov told the story of how it made its trip from the United Kingdom to Canada and finally to Warwick.
It was Dimitrov’s trip to this country and then Warwick that commanded attention.
“This is a land of opportunity, but everything is taken for granted,” he said.
Dimitrov came here from Bulgaria in 2005. In a following interview, Dimitrov said he came to this country as part of a summer work-travel exchange. He landed at the New Jersey shore and at a McDonald’s, where he flipped burgers and made friends who later helped him.
With two accounting degrees, Dimitrov dreamed of returning to Bulgaria and opening a business with his mother, who is an accountant. He returned to his home country, but he realized even at McDonald’s he saw greater opportunity in this country.
“Even at $6.50 [an hour] I could have a better life than in Bulgaria,” he said.
In Bulgaria, he could expect to make $200 to $250 a month and be paying $6 to $7 for a gallon of gasoline.
Dimitrov returned to this country with a friend expecting to find work in Maine. That was problematic. They couldn’t even find a place to stay, and in desperation Dimitrov called the McDonald’s manager he knew from New Jersey. The manager said he was happy to have him return, so Dimitrov took a bus south. He found a place where he could rent a bed for $80 a week and begged his supervisor to give him as many hours as possible. He especially wanted the 12-hour shifts because that included two free meals. He saved his money, for as he put it, he didn’t have the time to spend it.
When the seasonal work came to an end, Dimitrov followed the McDonald’s manager, who was a student at Boston University, to Boston. There he worked a number of jobs from parking valet to cook.
He said Friday morning was the worst time of the week, as he knew with his schedule he wouldn’t be going to bed until Sunday morning. He saved and he saved, thinking he would return to Bulgaria and build an accounting practice.
“I love numbers,” he says.
It was another love that brought him to Rhode Island. He met Kamelia through his friends and they developed a relationship. She lived in Rhode Island and was afraid to drive in Boston traffic, so Dimitrov moved here.
His first job was at Quonset, unloading cars being shipped into the port. He picked up additional work with FedEx that ended him up with his first business in this country. In 2008, he learned that a FedEx ground route was for sale.
He faced a difficult decision – should he use the money he saved to start the accounting business in Bulgaria? He abandoned the dream of an accounting business and invested in his future here.
Dimitrov and Kamelia lived together for a couple of years and, as he tells the story, one day they had a heart to heart talk over whether they should marry. Once they made the decision, they bought tickets to Las Vegas, where Dimitrov dressed up as Elvis and Kamelia as Marilyn Monroe to tie the knot. It was 2010 and friends and family watched on the Internet. It wasn’t until 2013 when they visited Bulgaria that Dimitrov got to meet his in-laws.
Speaking about this country, Dimitrov says, there was a time when opportunity was plentiful: “there was money on all the branches of the tree.” Many of ventures have been developed, “but there’s still money on the tree. You need to be disciplined and [it’s achievable] with a lot of hard work.”
Solomon didn’t get to hear the full Dimitrov story on his visit, but from the abridged version he was impressed by his entrepreneurial spirit and hard work. He echoed Dimitrov’s take that this country is a land of opportunity.