BELLVIEW, FLORIDA – When Harris Chand shows up at the Lake Lillian playground the children come running, soon followed by their mothers, big sisters, big brothers and baby sitters.
On a warm day workmen rush to his van when he shows up at a home under construction in The Villages of Florida about ten miles from here.
The world has changed dramatically for Chand, a hard working, highly capable, successful businessman. Now he is a partner in Advanced Foundation & Sinkhole Service where they repair the foundations of sinking homes. Chand is handling marketing for Larry Flaugh, Chand starting out in Flaugh’s business as a consultant.
Chand, now 42, spent his first days in America in 1988 at the age of 19, after finishing high school on the Turks and Caicos Islands. When he arrived he slept in the New York subway system where he was warm and dry. He began bagging groceries although he didn’t even have a green card. Soon he worked in the security field for the Con Edison power company. Early on he discovered he also could work as an orderly in a large hospital and take medical classes at night.
Eventually he bought a gas station and grocery store, but the 9/11 Muslim extremist attack on the twin towers of New York drove him out of the city. People looted and damaged his store, and also taunted him because of his race, he added. That’s when he packed up and moved to Florida, losing $500,000 in the process while being forced to start over.
Chand still owns an ice cream truck in the central part of the state, complete with the loud, rousing music I heard as a child three generations ago. He bought his first ice cream truck in New York City shortly after he arrived in America. At first he worked two 16 hour shifts on weekends plus another job during the week and it took just 60 days serving of ice cream bars to crowds of affluent residents in the nation’s largest city, to earn enough in that rented ice cream truck to purchase his own truck and supplies, he says. In his first week on the truck he says he made $1,500.
He still has an ice cream truck, and works long days – this time to support the young children born to his current wife (with a fifth child on the way). He also has two older girls (17 and 19) in college.
It is more than making money that keeps Chand working two jobs. He enjoys the people he meets, and some even buy the foundation services he often pitches to his adult ice cream customers.
Meeting Harris Chand, learning how hard he works, and the distance he has traveled from sleeping in the subway to owning a home in Florida after the 9-11 turmoil was impressive.