Minority Small Business Owner of the Year

Patience, Determination and Community; Alba Rios’ Recipe for Success Born in Colombia, Alba Lucia Rios immigrated to the United States in 2001, settling in Rhode Island where she met her husband Manuel Grajales. Together, their goal was to own a business, to prosper and be successful. In 2007, they began taking steps toward that goal by purchasing Tienda Alinary, a retail establishment providing specialty Colombian products to the community.

Under Alba’s ownership the store continued to prosper until, in 2008, the building she rented was foreclosed upon. The economic downturn proved harsh as Alba fought to continue her businesses existence. Understanding the significance of her location, and what the 24 year history of Tienda Alinary meant to her community, Alba began searching for guidance. She contacted the Small Business Development Center and The Center for Women  Enterprise, inquiring about how to access the capital she needed to purchase the building. Working with Sandra McNamara she began educating herself on how to acquire what she needed. Over the course of that year Alba began approaching lenders but got used to the common answer of, “No”; frustrated but unwavering she approached Pawtucket Credit Union and finally heard the “Yes” she had been waiting for. With the funds in hand Alba purchased the building from the bank. Over the next three years Alba and Manuel began renovating the property. Facing hefty improvement bills they began expanding Tienda Alinary’s offering, first was the addition of the bakery. Every morning Manuel would bake the bread before going upstairs to work on repairs. Next was the addition of the restaurant and a full breakfast offering, before long the demand grew for a lunch menu as well. To address another community need they also began offering shipping services, allowing those looking to ship something back to their native country the opportunity to do so in a streamlined, culturally friendly process.


A community HUB, many people come to Tienda Alinary looking for legal advice or a place to refer a doctor. Rios’ understands the role her business plays and does what she can to refer those looking for help in the right direction. Often her support is more subtle, a bowl of soup to someone in need, a credit line to those who may be a little short that day – always with an understanding that community is about support, and a business can do so much more towards that end than simply being a place to shop. Proud of her success, Alba still stays grounded, choosing to focus on those who have helped her succeed. She continues to thank Alinary Salavarrieta – who had owned Tienda Alinary for 24 years before selling to Alba – for creating the community landmark the store has become. Alba also feels a deep connection with Sandra Cano, whose friendship and emotional support means so much to her. Mostly, she wants to share her message of success with those in her community, “If you want to succeed in your business you can, but first of all do things right. Get informed, there is plenty of help in the state, but you have to reach out and if you reach out and do the right things you are going to succeed with patience and determination.” Her message of success continues to be strengthened by her service to her community, a community that supports Alba right back.


For her demonstrated success, community support and potential for continued growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration pleased to honor Alba Lucia Rios, owner of Tienda Alinary, as the 2018 Rhode Island Minority Small Business Owner of the Year.

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