“La Social”: They left Puerto Rico for Miami, and . . .


“They left Puerto Rico for Miami after the hurricane — and brought a restaurant with them,” writes Carlos Frías, the James Beard award-winning Miami Herald food editor. The original restaurant/beauty salon, La Social, is located at 64 Condado Avenue (Suite 1) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The new one is now at 7601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida.

Ivan Nieves and David Torres had every reason to leave Puerto Rico and never look back.

Hurricane Maria blew out their waterfront condo’s floor-to-ceiling windows, and every room of their home had “a dead fish smell,” Torres remembers. Their combination restaurant-boutique-hair salon La Social — a gathering place for locals amid the touristy Condado section in San Juan — was going to be without power for months. And when the oncologist who was treating Nieves’ grandfather for prostate cancer handed the family his medical file and evacuated, Nieves couldn’t wait any longer. “What am I going to do now?” Nieves worried. “We felt like we could better help our family from Miami,” Torres said. “It was our only option.”

They left last October and settled in Midtown. Nieves’ grandfather got the medical attention he needed. And the married couple, both 30, opened a new version of their restaurant La Social in May, bringing new life to a neglected corner of Biscayne Boulevard.

And yet, their island home called to them.

Their first customers in Miami were Puerto Ricans who had relocated to Miami after the two hurricanes last summer. Former customers in Puerto Rico called friends in Miami and told them to visit the couple’s new spot. One who was traveling from Puerto Rico to visit family in Miami even ordered a cake while on the island and picked it up here for a party. “The business is full every day, and it’s thanks to that community,” Nieves said.

Those ties bound their connection home. Rather than close their Puerto Rico store, they managed to keep both businesses open with the help of family and friends on both sides of the Caribbean. “It was like our original commitment was reborn all over again,” Torres said.

It wasn’t until the hurricanes hit last year that Nieves and Torres realized how much their restaurant had tied them to their neighbors. Nieves and Flores knew even before graduating college they weren’t meant to work for someone else. And when they opened the first La Social in Puerto Rico, both were taking a chance. [. . .]

Nieves flew home to Puerto Rico to close the original La Social for good. He planned to settle their debts and be home by Christmas.

Then he turned on the lights. Neighbors in the building and from around the block saw the Edison lights warm the street through the floor-to-ceiling windows and came to the door. Soon, the store was full. “When we turned on the lights, we lit up the block and people came out of their homes to tell us, ‘You can’t close. We need you here,’” Nieves said. “People were looking for something familiar.” [. . .]

See more on the restaurant at https://lasocial.business.site

For full article, see https://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/restaurants/article215514180.html

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