Excellent on Main Street — in Pleasantville: The Mambo Cafe 

Pleasantville cafe sprouts up with amazing fare and a touching American story

By Frank Gabriel
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 28, 2013

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Photo by Craig Billow

Ask Webster’s Dictionary to define “entrepreneur” and you’ll get: “Whoever initiates, on his own account an enterprise in which others are employed and risks are taken.”

For a living example, visit Jose Marin and wife Martha of Pleasantville’s thoroughly unexpected Mambo Cafe.

That alone doesn’t do this Colombian-born pair justice; they also own and operate a modern, Latino-oriented supermarket called La Cosecha (“The Arbor” in Spanish) just across Decatur Avenue along with a smaller “bodega” — their original venture — of the same name on Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City.

Meeting Jose on a warm, sunny late summer morning, one can’t help being taken by the crimson-haired fortysomething’s youthful enthusiasm. The man seems constantly in motion; greeting arriving patrons, acknowledging them upon exit, gently directing employees or screening calls on his relentless cell phone.

The restaurant itself is a gorgeous little haven — bathed in soft tropical shades of orange, lime and yellow — with artsy interiors providing customers room and opportunities for privacy.

Mambo Cafe’s creation is a classic tale of immigrants pursuing their dreams in America. 

Jose, native to South American metropolis Medellin, arrived in this country circa 1985.

He initially found work as a blackjack dealer at Resorts locally and then moved for one year to The Crystal Palace in the Bahamas.

“Then I got homesick and came back,” he explains, which fortuitously led to meeting Martha, also from Medellin, but strangers prior, in 1990. 

The couple married one year later and have two children: sons Matthew, 13, and Jake, 10.

How they went from one little grocery manned by five family members to an empire employing nearly 80 people is nothing short of inspirational.

A friend wanted to sell his Ventnor store and despite admitting that “We knew it was hard, grocery stores are,” Jose and Martha — who similarly aspired to run her own business — bought in.

Successful there and expanding to Atlantic City for over a decade, the couple eventually purchased Pleasantville real estate at two corners of Decatur and Main.

The food market was originally located here, but when La Cosecha expanded south in August of 2011, the current Mambo Cafe served only as storage. 

With that desirable frontage costing “18K a year in taxes” Jose began considering other use of the retail space. Initial options included a pharmacy, a discount store or rental to professionals.

But it was cooking which truly stirred his soul.

“Every Sunday I cooked a big breakfast for my wife and kids and they always tell me “This is the best day of the week.”

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