Juan Riesco and his brother, Jose, were heirs to a flourishing family business—Nini's Deli—in downtown Chicago. But it all came crashing down in early June, when the beloved eatery, owned by their foreign-born parents, found itself in the crosshairs of the increasingly progressive Black Lives Matter movement.
Having since left Chicago in the wake of the restaurant's forced, permanent closure, Riesco told Faithwire he and his brother are focusing on ministry.
"If they're gonna protest," he said, "we're gonna preach."
Riesco, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba and Mexico, was once lauded by numerous publications as an up-and-coming entrepreneur with a knack for viral branding. He had enjoyed so much success with the deli and his personal business, Chicago Native, that brands like Nike and Adidas launched collaborations with him. But when Riesco refused to wholly endorse the official Black Lives Matter movement, he and his family were villainized by blogs and news outlets, many of which labeled them as "racist" and "homophobic."
Rather than kowtow to the demands of a movement with which they harbor many disagreements, though, the Riescos stood firmly by their convictions. In early June, after being asked if they "believe Black Lives Matter," Riesco published an official statement on the deli's since-shuttered Instagram account.
In it, he wrote, he and his family believe "all people were created equal in the image of God." The lengthy statement continued, "We believe that all Black lives matter and we know that only God can bring about justice that is deserved."
Riesco told Faithwire that, because of the success of Nini's Deli, which had a five-star rating on Yelp, locals were eager to see the restaurant throw its weight behind the Black Lives Matter campaign. Rather than totally embrace the movement, though, Riesco said it was important to use his platform to share his faith.
"I had felt in my spirit that I needed to, yes, take a stand [against] injustice, but also take a stand, most importantly, for Christ," Riesco explained. "Because my business was so successful, by God's grace, we had a lot of eyes waiting on us to make a statement about what was happening."
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