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A heart for serving others

Ask almost anyone if they would like a do-over for 2020, and the answer would likely be a resounding yes. While do-overs are not always possible, second chances are sometimes granted to those who work at turning around their lives. 

Former Kentucky Living editor Paul Wesslund profiles a couple whose business was built on second chances in his first book, Small Business, Big Heart: How One Family Redefined the Bottom Line, (Highway 61 Communications, $15). 

Sal and Cindy Rubino were born to work in food. Cindy, even as a teen, had a knack for turning simple ingredients into something interesting and appealing. Sal grew up with the family table being the source of stories and connections. As fate would have it, the two met and formed their own connection in culinary school. 

With culinary degrees in hand and a plethora of experience, the newly married couple returned home to Louisville where they worked for the industry’s elite establishments until realizing their dream of restaurant ownership. A series of risky decisions, however, came close to ending both their marriage and their success. 

Such a wake-up call forced the Rubinos to rethink their approach to business, family and life in general, and The Cafe, a modest restaurant that prioritized family over financials, was born. 

More importantly, a ministry began as the Rubinos chose to hire recovering addicts and refugees, giving them an opportunity to earn an honest income while rebuilding their lives. In return for the Rubinos’ compassion and love for their staff, ministry flowed back to them. 

Cindy explains, “I didn’t always want to come into work the next day, so it was truly inspirational to me how they were working really hard to survive. They were not giving up on me. There was a lesson in humility there every day.” 

Upon hearing the Rubinos’ story, Wesslund, who describes himself as a retiree who never quite retired, was reminded of his own working theory that “doing the right thing is good business.” Though he never planned to write a book, he knew Sal and Cindy’s journey must be shared. Read more at

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