Pennywhistle Toys


In the fall of 1980, Abel Mendez was taking English as a second language lessons at a Catholic institution in uptown Manhattan. His instructor, a Cuban immigrant like himself, was a teacher at Mercy College. He took Mendez and his fellow students under his wing, guiding them through the process of taking high school equivalency tests and then arranging for and actually bringing them to Mercy College for admissions interviews.

The College's bilingual program enabled Mendez to take English 101, and all his other classes in Spanish, gradually mainstreaming him into classes in English. He earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics - Operations Research. The whole experience was nothing short of wonderful, he says. He and his classmates were young and eager in a country full of promise, and Mercy was giving them the tools to open one door after another.

Mendez started taking classes four nights a week, and all day Saturdays. It was a Schedule that left him little free time, but the results were well worth the effort.

He will never forget walking down Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn one day soon after starting at Mercy, when a young girl asked him where the train was. It was a simple question. But he was so thrilled to understand what she asked, and to be able to respond. It meant he was once again able to communicate with those around him.

During his time at Mercy, Mendez took a job with Penny Whistle Toys in Manhattan - now one of three such stores. He remembers talking to one of his professors about the opportunity, and the man gave him three pieces of advice: work hard, be honest, and do every task with which you are presented to the best of your ability.

It was advice he took to heart, and the ethics and integrity he displayed over the ensuing years helped him gain the trust of the stores' owner. She trusted him so much, in fact, that she first made him her partner. Then, in 1996, Mendez was able to buy out her interest. He is now the sole owner of three stores - one on Madison Avenue, another on Columbus Avenue, and one in Bridgehampton N.Y. "I'm just living my American dream," he said, "and it all started at Mercy College 20 years ago."