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Read on People Magazine EYEBALLING THE FOUR TEENAGE INMATES hunkered around the jail cell, Fernando Mateo slaps the gray concrete
Leading the way to success
Fernando Fernando Mateo is known as a well-respected and successful businessman and as the unifying force behind the livery cab industry.
By 14, Mateo was working part-time selling baby furniture, but at his father’s suggestion, he enrolled in a short course in linoleum installation and for a while hustled free-lance jobs. At 16, he was hired at a rug store, where a master carpet layer began to teach him the craft. One day the young apprentice accidentally walked on a white carpet that had been unrolled on the sidewalk, and the owner publicly dressed him down and called him an idiot. “I was so embarrassed, I quit. A few months later, another store let me go because some guy accused me of taking jobs from customers on the side, which was a lie. But that did it. I never wanted to be bossed again.”
What followed were several exhausting, financially precarious years. He lived in a small, unheated apartment, went through a failed first marriage and—with the help of his meager savings and a $2,000 stake from his dad—opened his first Carpet Fashions store on the Lower East Side. He knew little about running a tiny, storefront shop, but he kept at it nonstop. “One week I’d go around the city in my beat-up car and a duffel bag full of calling cards, putting them under doors, and the next week I’d lay carpet. I learned things the hard way.”
Fernando Mateo is also responsible for many positive changes within the Hispanic Community in New York City. In 1990, for example, Fernando launched a city-wide gun exchange program, Goods For Guns (formerly known as Toys For Guns), that became hugely popular and sparked similar gun exchange programs throughout the country. Mr. Mateo also established a training school, Mateo Institute of Training, to offer training to first time, non-violent offenders, so they can acquire skills and be better prepared for employment upon their release. Both programs were well received by city officials and other respected members of the community. To prevent successful programs such as these from fading away,