Javy Báez Serving Food, Community Through Growing Restaurant Chain in Puerto Rico

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Cubs icon Javier Báez and his brother-in-law, Minnesota Twins pitcher José Berríos, are preparing for life after baseball with an investment in a local business.

Last May, the All-Stars made news by providing meals to over 500 families through Taquiza, a Mexican restaurant chain run by their operations manager and executive assistant in Puerto Rico, Sammy Zapata (not to be confused with their MLB agent Nick Chanock). But the pair aren’t just charitable collaborators, they are also investors in and ambassadors of the restaurant chain, as reported by Yamaira Muñiz Pérez of El Vocero de Puerto Rico (story in Spanish).

Báez and Berríos told Zapata that they preferred to invest their money in Puerto Rico “rather than being in bonds and stock markets” and that they wanted their investment to “bear fruit for us” while also benefitting the people (all translations from Spanish quotes mine).

The restaurant’s Toa Baja location previously served a free lunch to 1,000 children in a drive-through as part of the players’ policy of giving food to kids. On Friday, Báez and Berríos appeared at the chain’s new Gurabo location to provide autographs and gifts to 40 local children, all of whom received a free meal.

The event in Gurabo was smaller since the restaurant is located on the third floor of the Evaristo “Varo” Roldán Stadium. Zapata noted that the children were invited “[b]ecause every Taquiza restaurant that opens will give away food to kids before selling a taco.” That’s a business plan you’d be happy to see more restaurants follow.

“We’re creating a homelike atmosphere, which is what we want; in addition to bringing joy to the people of Puerto Rico and expanding the project the best we can,” said Báez.

El Mago, an expert in bringing joy, and his brother-in-law are providing inspiration while depending on their manager to operate a business in a risky industry. Zapata is aware celebrity involvement in a business concern involves special demands. He acknowledged that “it is more pressure for us” due to the need to take care of his stars’ image while also “satisfying their requirement of employing families.”

According to Zapata, the restaurants already provide for 77 families who “are eating thanks to Taquiza.” The partners have a goal of opening three additional locations in La Placita de Santurce (San Juan) and the municipalities of Fajardo and Cabo Rojo.

This would be ambitious even during normal times, but the chain has the backing of beloved local athletes committed more to improving their community than making money.

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