He also points to Notre Dame D’Haiti, the Catholic church on Northeast 62nd Street that is the spiritual home for many Haitian immigrants. It is undergoing a major expansion.
“It is our home no matter where we go,” he said. “When something happens in Haiti or in the Haitian community we go to Little Haiti.”
For the children of Haitian immigrants, moving out of their parents’ old neighborhood can be something of a status symbol.
When Ludvy Joseph, a second-generation Haitian American, mulled the idea of opening a restaurant he said he only considered North Miami.
“The second generation of Haitians don’t feel like Little Haiti is the place to be. North Miami has a better reputation than Little Haiti,” he said, saying the Northeast Miami-Dade municipality feels safer and looks “cleaner” than the Miami neighborhood.
He says he also wanted to cater to a broader clientele in hopes of turning a bigger profit.
His Fritay Restaurant, which specializes in Haitian street food such as fried pork and fried grated malanga, draws a more diverse crowd in North Miami, he said.
“It’s not only Haitians who eat here,” he said. “People from different cultures come here.”
The demographic shift has also played out politically: North Miami was among the first cities in the country to have a Haitian-American mayor, and today has a city council that has a majority of Haiti-born politicians.
At the recent grand opening of Fakidj, North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre and other city officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting.
“It’s important for the smaller businesses to feel that the mayor and council support what they do,” said Pierre, who said the city does not keep statistics on Haitian-run businesses, but estimates about 90 businesses run by Haitian Americans have opened in his city during the past two years.
Boyer, who said he was twice held up at gunpoint, beaten and robbed at his Little Haiti location, agreed the city feels safer.
“In North Miami, I feel more police presence and security,” he said.
The move north by Haitian-owned establishments is not lost on larger companies who rely on Haitian businesses to sell their products.
Nopin, a telecommunications company that offers various services including long-distancing calling cards, used to target much of their vending opportunities in the Little Haiti neighborhood.
“We’re noticing the business volume is getting more prominent in North Miami,” said Caroline Zenny, who oversees the company’s product distribution to local businesses.
The company’s brand ambassadors are actively scouting stores in North Miami to place products, she said.
Pierre, North Miami’s mayor, said the growth of Haitian-owned businesses — and small business in general — is a testament to the city’s brand and allure.
“I love Little Haiti. My mother still lives there,” he said. “But sometimes people come where the water is fresher. At this time, North Miami is where it is.”