After more than 80 years of serving East Harlem, Justo Botánica has closed.
Longtime owner Jorge Vargas has passed.
Jorge inherited the iconic store from his father, who initially began selling medals and rosaries from a suitcase on 110th Street back in 1930. Jorge kept the family tradition alive, selling spiritual goods, giving readings and providing hope to folks from all over the world out of his storefront on 104th Street and Lexington Avenue.
Justo Botánica remained at the same location for 58 years, serving seniors from NYCHA, doctors, students and stars like Mark Anthony and Jennifer López. Jorge’s services almost came to an end when the landlord kicked him and 5 other small businesses out at the end of 2012. While 7-Eleven eventually replaced Justo Botánica, thanks to the love and support El Barrio showed him, Jorge was able relocate just a few blocks away. In 2013, New York Times reporter David González profiled the iconic owner and his store’s impact on East Harlem.
“In this store, we deal in hope. We keep alive our traditions and our roots. El Barrio, like the rest of New York, is changing. Now they’re tryna push us all out. Thankfully, God gave me the strength to keep on moving, the vision to know where I’m going and a people that support me.”
– Jorge “Justo” Vargas
If you have memories you’d like to share, please share with the hashtag #JustoBotanica.
On Friday, March 4th at 11:30am, everyone will meet at the funeral home to depart at noon and go to the cemetery. The procession will stop in front of Justo’s store on Lexington between 106th and 107th and then head to Mt. Hope.