MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been a year of trauma for the Twin Cities. For some it’s been mental, for others it’s been financial. For business owners on Lake Street, it’s been both. The south Minneapolis neighborhood was Ground Zero for destruction after the killing of George Floyd, but for some business owners hope lingers.

Junior Hernandez and his staff have mastered his mother’s secret recipe at Pollo Movil.

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“Pretty much you will not find any sauce like this anywhere else,” he said.

He has had to fight for the business to survive. He came to Minnesota for opportunity when he was 18 years old, leaving his home in Vera Cruz, Mexico.

“I was crying for the first two months because I really wanted to go back to my hometown,” he said.

Hernandez fought through, learning English, perfecting his culinary skills and opening a business in a Lake Street plaza.

“This is part of my dream and I’ve been working so hard,” he said.

But one year ago, that dream went up in flames, along with the rest of the Lake Street community. Anger over the murder of Floyd sparked rage, and riots and looting ensued.

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“I came over and everything was damage. I’m driving down Lake Street and I see buildings burning still, smoking,” Hernandez said. “I came in my door and its like a hurricane, you know. My merchandise, my POA, my computers, my whole store was collapsed. … I don’t have cash to build again, what am I going to do?”

His dream was shattered. That’s when an unsuspecting group of neighbors stepped in.

“Urban Ventures came over out of nowhere just jumping into our situation, just helping,” Hernandez said.

Urban Ventures typically works on getting children who grow up in poverty to college. The Lake Street-area nonprofit quickly changed course in June 2020, supplying food, $5,000 grants, and cleanup volunteers to any business in need.

“When everything happened we had to switch gears really fast. Our immediate neighborhood was hurting,” Luke Trouten, with Urban Ventures, said. “It’s really just being good neighbors because people like to live in a neighborhood with good neighbors, so we are doing our best to do that.”

Hernandez says his days now are brighter. The store is cleaned up, his equipment replaced, and he is at long last back in business.

“That’s when I noticed there is hope,” he said.

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Three months after the violence, 97% of the businesses Urban Ventures served last year were able to reopen, and they’re continuing efforts to support the community. Click here for more information on how you can help. You can also volunteer as a mentor or simply come out and support Lake Street businesses like Pollo Movil.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield