By Nadine El-Bawab
Rakesh Soni immigrated from India to the United States 15 years ago. Soni, 46, has been a resident of Mission Hill for 12 years. He owns five buildings in the neighborhood, although he is in the process of selling one of them. Soni also operates Punjab Mini Mart in one of his buildings on Tremont Street.
Soni said that his properties are all well-maintained buildings that are mostly rented out to students or young professionals. “I play a major role in the community,” Soni said. “I own the store, so I handle almost 200 people everyday. And I have been here a long time so most of them, they know me. They’re undergrads and till they graduate and they get jobs, they still know me.”
On July 18, 2017, Andres Cruz, the owner of a hardware store one block away from Punjab Mini Mart, was shot and killed during an armed robbery. Cruz was a leader in Mission Hill, and his death was a shock for the entire community.
“It definitely affected [the community] a lot. He was a very nice guy. He was here for like the last 30 years, very good guy. His store was awarded one of best stores of Mission Hill recently, a couple weeks before his death,” Soni said. AC Hardware has been permanently closed, but Soni believed that Cruz’s son may start running the business.
Over the last 12 years, Soni believes the neighborhood has changed for the better – especially in terms of safety – and it has now become a student neighborhood. He also says that the price of property has been increasing, which is good for business.
“Hopefully, they will make new good buildings and more good people will come. We want a hotel over here [and] new restaurants,” Soni said. “Earlier, there wasn’t new construction going on. But now – everywhere – new houses, new construction, new buildings.”