Refugee Employees Find Opportunity, Community at Louisville Restaurant

January 23, 2014

Sal Rubino’s family came to the United States as immigrants from Italy, and he grew up with the story of how hard work and perseverance made a better life possible in America.

Rubino and his wife Cindy own and operate The Café, a popular breakfast and lunch restaurant in Louisville. Over the course of more than 10 years, they’ve built a strong working relationship with EMM’s affiliate partners at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, hiring a host of former refugees who have flourished in various roles at the restaurant.

Rubino said he’s cherished the experience of watching numerous former refugees come in and out of his kitchen over the years, taking advantage of the employment opportunity as they build new lives in the United States.

 “Finding reliable, hard-working employees can be difficult,” he said. “The refugees who we’ve hired have definitely strengthened our business.”

Rubino currently employs about a half dozen refugees who make the kitchen at The Café hum with life most mornings and afternoons. The newcomers hail from Cuba, as well as Bhutan and Russia. Though they come from different cultures, they’ve formed a bond and a surrogate family amongst the staff at the restaurant.

Rubino said many refugee employees use the job to pay for education and quickly move on to professional jobs, while others have relied on the stability and flexibility the job provides to build secure lives for their families over time.

In addition to helping him build a better business, Rubino said that hiring refugees has shown him an up-close view of an ongoing version of the American dream. For that, he said, he’s extremely grateful.