Once you’ve met the woman of your dreams, picking up and moving from the Dominican Republic to Egg Harbor Township doesn’t seem like much of a daunting task. Such was the case for our newest Warehouse Associate, Pedro “PJ” Martinez.
Cape Beverage Operations Manager Justin Vitti liked that PJ brought with him over a decade of experience in a warehouse environment — and he told us so in Spanish.
“Pedro aporta más de diez años de experiencia trabajando en un almacén en República Dominicana,” he said, confusing the staff at Straight to the Pint. “Se centró en el control de inventario y en el manejo de todas las solicitudes entrantes y salientes. Aunque no es una cerveza específica, se adapta perfectamente al ajetreado tráfico de nuestro almacén.”
(Thank goodness for Google Translate.)
Cape Beverage Warehouse Manager Craig Tropp likes having PJ around, as well.
“Pedro being here is integral to getting all the trucks out on time in the morning,” he says. “He brings us music that we would have never heard before, including his own produced works.”
PJ Martinez — short for Pedro José — moved here seven months ago from Hato Mayor del Rey, a city of about 70,000 in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic, approximately sixty miles west of Punta Cana.
Seven months ago. On March 1st. About two weeks before New Jersey stopped in its tracks.
“But if I didn’t make it at that time,” he says, “I didn’t know when I was going to be able to make it.”
And the clock was ticking for PJ.
“I met a beautiful lady on Facebook a few years ago,” he explains, referring to his now-wife, Gabriell. “We were talking about getting married and moving in together, but, at the time, I was going to school and working at that same school.
“She said, ‘Make a decision now, or I’ll kick your ass,’” he says, laughing. “So, I said, ‘I think it’s the time.’ So, two years ago, my wife came to the Dominican Republic and we got married. Then, we started the whole immigration process.”
PJ had been working at the school for about twelve years, first as an advisor, helping prospective students get enrolled at the school.
“At the time, I was the only person who could speak a little bit of English and a little bit of French,” he explains. “I could speak to Haitians and to Asians. A lot of the Asians speak English, not even Spanish. Crazy, right? You come to a country, but you don’t learn the language.”
“I had to get ready before I came here,” he says. “It was a little bit harder at the beginning because I was speaking to my wife who doesn’t speak any Spanish. She forced me to learn. So, when I got here, I was like, ‘Hey! I know what he said. I know what he said. I know what he said. I speak English!’”
And honestly, PJ’s English is awesome. He’s got a heavy accent, but his command of the language is on par with some native speakers — even better.
In the Dominican Republic, PJ was relatively happy with his position as an advisor, but due to one of the stranger laws of the country, after five years, he had to be moved to a different department.
“They moved me to the warehouse department, as a dispatcher and receiver,” he says. “Eventually, after two years, I became the warehouse manager, and I was there for another five years.”
Twelve years at the same employer is certainly impressive, no matter where you’re from.
“When I was talking to Christine during the first interview,” he says, “I told her that if I weren’t here, I’d probably still be working there.”
The most difficult thing for PJ when he moved here was being unemployed for five months.
He applied for a lot of jobs when he arrived here, but… so was everyone else. We were at the very beginning of a global pandemic — jobs were hard to come by.
“But Cape Beverage had the position in the warehouse, and I said, ‘A warehouse — that’s an environment that I’m used to,’” he says. “So I could work there and it wouldn’t be too hard for me because I’m used to organizing inventory. It was the same thing I was doing in the Dominican.”
He’d initially taken a job as a dishwasher, but he was frustrated with not being able to provide for his family, so he kept looking.
“I was like, ‘I’ve been here for four months, and I haven’t brought the first piece of bread to the table,’” he says. “It was really bad.”
Now, with seven months under his belt, PJ is enjoying life here in New Jersey.
“I miss my parents and my family,” he says. “That’s the main thing. But I don’t miss much, besides my family. I’m still able to make music.”
PJ has been a musician his whole life, mainly creating hip-hop and R&B.
“The kind of music you do by yourself in a little room with a nice computer and a keyboard,” he laughs. “In the Dominican, we have a lot of local artists, so I consider myself a low-budget music producer.”
“He told me that I could make some extra money,” he says, “and I was like, ‘Oh, really?!? Yeah, I’m down!’”
Now, he’ll receive a capella songs from aspiring artists, and he enjoys putting music to them.
“They’ll be like, ‘Do whatever you want,’” he says. “Then I’ll put together a track, nicely mixed, a little bit of mastering, and they’ll say, ‘Wow!’ That’s the kind of stuff that fills me with joy.”
He says that he only plays piano “a little bit,” having taught himself. He credits an “old man” in his city with much of his musical training.
“He taught me about chord progressions and stuff like that, and he said, ‘You have to follow this rule, and this rule, and this rule, because you’re kinda lazy, so I’m gonna give you a few shortcuts,’” PJ laughs. “And I said, ‘I appreciate it, man! That’s what I’ve been looking for!’ So, he taught me scales, some chord progressions, major and minor chords. That’s what I needed.”
When it comes to listening, PJ has a wide range of styles that he enjoys.
“I can listen to Marilyn Manson and at the same time I can listen to Frank Sinatra,” he says. “I can also listen to a movie soundtrack. I love music and I appreciate every genre.”
“I was really young, let me tell you,” he says. “But the NBA changed a little bit. I kind of lost interest, but I still like to play.”
Since he’s been in South Jersey, PJ hasn’t really yet had time to explore the beaches and shore towns — and, having grown up a stone’s throw from Punta Cana, well… Cape May’s beaches are some of the best in the world… but they’re not Punta Cana.
“I got down to Cape May once,” he says. “My wife’s friend had a birthday party, but I haven’t been out of Egg Harbor much, honestly. I’m working on getting a car because I couldn’t bring my license. I just got my permit.”
In the meantime, he’s enjoying the chance to work at Cape Beverage.
“I’m a long-term worker, know what I mean?” he says. “If I’m at a place where they treat me decent, with respect, and they help me move forward, I’ll stay there forever. I’m really grateful Cape Beverage gave me the chance.”
PJ was really looking for a place where he felt respected.
“You can get money anywhere,” he says. “You can get money at McDonald’s, but you’re probably going to hate your coworkers and hate your job. A healthy environment is really important to me. You can do anything for money, but working in a place where people show you support, respect, that’s the best. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you wake up every day and go to work, because when you don’t love your work, you’re like, ‘Shit, I have to go there tomorrow.’”
And he’s found that at Cape Beverage.
“To be honest, I really like it,” he says. “In the beginning, it was really hard. I was coming every day to work, struggling with what to do and how to do it. That’s really hard for me. I didn’t feel really productive, and I had to wait for someone to tell me what to do. But now, I come to the warehouse, I grab my pick sheet, and start pulling my pallets. I already know what to do. It’s really good. I’ve been moving.”
In addition to the job at Cape Beverage, PJ really likes The Bog.
We’re thrilled to have PJ on our team — he’s brought a wealth of experience along with him. So, the next time you’re drinking one of our brews, you can silently thank PJ for getting it on the truck and out to you.