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More than a Restaurant: Creating Jobs and Help for Refugees

More than a Restaurant: Creating Jobs and Help for Refugees

The Café received an SBA 504 loan for $445,000 to provide long-term, fixed financing to purchase equipment and relocate a restaurant to an older building on the edge of downtown Louisville, KY. There are 39 employees at the restaurant; approximately 22 jobs were created by an SBA 504 loan.

“We absolutely could not have pulled this off without the help of the SBA and the bank” said Sal Rubino. “The loan officer at the bank along with folks at the Certified Development Company (CDC) completely walked us through the process of obtaining the SBA loan.  It was their dedication and support that ultimately made our dream come true."

The Cafe is more than just a restaurant. Forty year restaurant veterans Sal and Cindy Rubino, co-owners of the restaurant, are all about MORE.  They are committed to giving patrons more than expected on the plate and more than expected in hospitality and service. But, it does not stop there. More than 70% of The Cafe's staff is either refugees from foreign countries or those struggling to overcome an addiction. The Rubinos are committed to helping improve the lives of others. Sal can usually be found out front greeting and serving patrons for breakfast or lunch, while Cindy directs her multi-cultural kitchen staff as chef to prepare some of the best tasting food in the region.

The Rubinos operated The Café on the second floor of a 3-story antique mall near downtown Louisville for 12 years.  They decided to relocate the restaurant to a free standing building on the east side of downtown Louisville in 2007. The restaurant offers hearty portions with a focus on international and southern style cooking.  

The menu is simple, with hearty breakfasts, pastries, sandwiches, salads, soups and tempting desserts. But perhaps the restaurant is most famous for its modest prices, fresh ingredients and the smiling face of Sal Rubino.

The Cafe has been operating continuously since September 1996 and has seen significant growth year after year.  Few independent restaurants last this long, particularly in an economy as challenging as the one from 2008 – 2011. The management team overcame various issues associated with relocating a restaurant to a refurbished warehouse just as the “Great Recession” was starting in late 2008. The owners are considered experts in this industry and have a successful history in operating independent restaurants for decades in Louisville. 

The Rubinos support Teen Challenge KY, which operates Priscilla’s Place, a transitional home for women in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol; Kentucky Refugee Ministries; and Children’s Hospital Foundation through Victoria’s Hope Fund, which the Rubinos created. The mission of Victoria’s Hope Fund is to help those with eating disorders in Kentucky, and Victoria's Hope Fund has aligned itself with Children's Hospital Foundation, which supports Kosair Children’s Hospital, based in Louisville, KY, for that purpose.

Learn more about SBA’s loan programs, free counseling services and other small business programs at, your lender, and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE Chapter or Women’s Business Center.

Company Name: 
The Café
Louisville, KY