Deo Braga has built a reputation as one of Gloucester and Cape Ann's busiest and most successful entrepreneurs.
His properties now number eight Dunkin' Donuts, a new gas station with a convenience mart and deli, a full-scale restaurant, real estate, and commercial and personal holdings worth an estimated $20 million to $25 million.
Now, says Braga, 51, it's time to take a breather. Yet his latest venture — a parking area "with shrubs, trees, birds" — is already under construction next to his Azorean Restaurant on Washington Street.
At a cost of more than $600,000, including land acquisition and site preparation, the parking area — long the location of a gas station at the corner of Washington Street and Railroad Avenue — will "beautify the restaurant and that area even more," he says.
He said he hopes the project — "with everything nice and neat and clean" — will be completed by the end of this month.
Braga's entrepreneurial side has been in perpetual motion since he came here from the islands of the Azores in 1981.
With his wife, Paula, and their children, plus an executive team that's like extended family, Braga has amassed a flourishing corridor of businesses on and just off Washington Street.
From his land, which includes Manchester Athletic Club's Gloucester center near the MBTA depot, across the tracks to the Azorean, crossing Washington Street to the just renovated office building and doughnut shop, and now down to the new Irving gas station and market at the corner of Washington and Prospect streets, the Braga touch is clear: Make it clean, bright, efficient — and profitable.
The Azorean, he says, is grossing 30 percent to 50 percent higher sales per week this year over 2011. The Dunkin' Donuts outlet and store at the Irving gas station — a derelict corner before he bought it — now boasts specialty foods (from the Azorean kitchen) including sausages, salads, cheeses, sandwiches and imported oils.
Once the gas station and market were up and thriving, Braga tore down the other gas station he had purchased at the corner of Washington and Railroad Avenue.
Last summer, he said, he considered building a function room affiliated with the Azorean on that spot. Now, he says, he realizes what he needs is more parking to accommodate the customers he already has and a growing number of new ones as well.
"I'm not retiring," said Braga, quashing any notion he'd be content to just sit with the shrubs, the trees and the birds.
"But my new projects have stopped. Now I just give good stuff for people to buy."
Correspondent Nancy Gaines is a veteran reporter and editor of national and Boston publications.