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Monday is the heaviest day of Jonathan Macedo‘s week.

Not only because he has, like any other 18-year-old, to attend classes (virtual, for now). He also has to place orders with suppliers, drive to vegetable and meat distributors’ warehouses, send the week’s financial information to his accountant, pay his employees, talk to his lawyer, fill out documents for grant applications –and whatever else is needed. On top of it all, he has to set up the work shifts for the week and check that everything is running smoothly in his restaurant’s kitchen.

Are you surprised? Read this incredible story and meet the youngest business owner in Chicago, whose story has already been featured on NBC nationally and in an extensive Chicago Tribune story, which has brought many more American customers to his restaurant. The “Peke’s Pozole” attraction is no longer the exquisite Mexican broth, it is the “boy wonder” –pride of our community.

The Dream Fulfilled

It is incredible to see Jonathan in action, with many more responsibilities than, many of us had when we were 18 years old.

Jonathan told us that he started working at the age of 12, helping his parents (both employees of a printing and packing plant since 1987, the year they came to Chicago from the Mexican state of Guerrero) at home when they decided to sell food on the weekends.

In May 2018, when he was 15, his parents opened Peke’s Pozole, the small family restaurant on Pulaski Road in Archer Heights. There he waited tables, took customer orders, cooked, and even did some administrative paperwork (although his father had to sign off because he was a minor).

On November 17, 2020, exactly 12 days after his 18th birthday, his parents ceded the restaurant’s ownership to him. In any case, he had already been acting as the owner for some time. The restaurant’s employees say that Jonathan has been dedicated, organized, intelligent, and ambitious for years. “He is very respectful and fair,” says one of his employees.

Now, Peke’s Pozole is legally the responsibility of young Jonathan. (“Peke” is his mother’s nickname and pozole is the house specialty, made with a recipe from Chilapa, Guerrero, his mother’s homeland in Mexico.)

The Coronavirus pandemic hit the restaurant hard, as it did in all the industry. The boy never gave up, he applied for every grant and loan from the federal, state, and City of Chicago governments. He single-handedly raised the resources to keep the business afloat.

The place is now doing well. On weekends, waits for less than ten tables sometimes stretch to an hour. On Sundays, Jonathan has been selling more than 300 pozole orders. He’s also watching the kitchen, tidying up the staff, taking orders from UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub, buying ingredients required at the last minute, clearing up doubts with Francia (his girlfriend, who is a cashier on weekends), and doing office paperwork.

Even marketing is partly this boy wonder’s job.

Peke’s logo has the face of a jaguar, non-Mexicans think it’s a tiger. Jonathan brought back many jaguar masks from his travels in Mexico. He wants his restaurant to have a mix of modern design and respect for the traditions and culture of his parents.

As he talks to us, Petra, his mom, looks at him with those proud eyes that would thrill anyone. She believes that she and her husband made the right decision. Jonathan is the boss, he has earned it.

… And He’s Going for More

In addition, there is another side to the story that deserves mention. Jonathan is also a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, a selective enrollment school in West Englewood, ranked among the top 300 schools in the country. He has never missed a single test, owning a restaurant hasn’t changed that. Indeed, remote learning has helped him alternate between classes and work. If you’re dedicated and focused, it’s not that burdensome, he says, smiling.

Next fall, he will attend DePaul University to study business; he received a nearly full scholarship. He received acceptance at all the universities to which he applied. He decided on DePaul because it’s close to his restaurant. But, not surprisingly, he passed early dual credit business courses at City Colleges of Chicago.: introduction to business, financial accounting, principles of management, and speech.

We Are Here To Help

His parents were born in Guerrero, a name that, in English, means “warrior” –nothing more ad-hoc to define the figure that Jaime di Paulo, President & CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC), had the pleasure of meeting.

They met in his restaurant, over a tasty plate of pozole. On that occasion, Jaime explained to Jonathan how our organization could help him grow his business.

He is a bright young man who makes our community proud,” said di Paulo. “We have already talked to him about pursuing his college career, continuing his education, opening his mind, and taking advantage of this unique opportunity to be a business owner. All this is something that will positively mark him for the rest of his life.”

Jaime explained to Jonathan the work of the Chamber of Commerce and assured him that the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) team at IHCC is ready to give him technical assistance and guide him in whatever he needs.

When the Chicago Tribune asked the National Restaurant Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association if they were aware of Jonatha’s case, both responded by email the same thing: “Woooooooooooooow.”

It’s the same thing we said when we learned of this story firsthand, and it’s the same thing we thought when we left the restaurant after meeting this young man who makes our community proud.


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