Herman Vargas told this story to the Tenement Museum as part of Russ + Daughters.
Herman moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City in 1976, and after a difficult first year, found a job in New York City at a garment factory in Soho. Every day, he would walk home along Houston Street to Russ + Daughters, where his cousin Jose worked. Herman remembers waiting for Jose to finish work each day, and their daily trips to play pool up on 14th Street. Herman, visiting the store everyday, caught the eye of Mark, then-owner of Russ + Daughters, who asked Herman if he wanted a job. Herman refused at first, since the job paid less money than his garment industry work, and he wanted weekends free. Eventually Herman decided to give it a try, and he first began in the kitchen, peeling and cutting onions, and became a counter man after returning from some time away in the Dominican Republic. Herman studied smoked fish by watching and learning from his colleague Sidney, and he also learned some Yiddish to communicate with his older Jewish customers. Now the General Manager of the Russ + Daughters Store, Herman recalled that in many ways, Russ + Daughters reminded him of his village in the Dominican Republic, where everyone knows each other. “It's in Yiddish and English, but it’s like my village. And if it hadn’t been for playing pool with my cousin, none of this would have happened.”