Bryan Rinebolt readies the facade of WBNA's 1577 Westminster Street for new signage / Photo courtesy of Hope & Thyme
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Social responsibility is an ethical framework and suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large…It pertains not only to business organizations but also to everyone whose any action impacts the environment. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, by performing activities that directly advance social goals.
In 2014, we chose to accept the responsibility of serving a community at a corner delicatessen and sandwich shop on the West Side of Providence. Over the last four years, as owners of Hudson Street Deli, we have paid careful attention to the ecosystem of our physical location, our menu offerings, and the needs of our employees, suppliers and vendors, and patrons. While in observation, we learned a lot about the diet and lifestyle of a community and its commuters.
We have adapted what we offer, and shifted our business model repeatedly to accommodate a growing need for community-centered meal options. The neighborhood continues to respond positively, and we have created over a dozen new jobs in the time we’ve been operating the deli. This was always our neighborhood, and, as we grew and increased our involvement in creating a collective human experience, it became our place.
The whole neighborhood, our place, seemingly has an energy pulsing under its streets that begs almost for the ground to be liberated from its asphalt cloak, and walkable paths installed under edible landscaping. It’s a romantic conjuring of a feeling… a connectedness that we have experienced the more we intertwine our places: where we find our creativity, where we serve our purpose, where we relax and call home, and where we participate in community and commerce.
And then, we need a space for food. A yin to the fast-paced deli-down-the-street’s yang. A space, both in time and in place, to feed our bodies in rhythm with the seasons and, respectfully, in regards to our planet.
We, as a community and its commuters, can choose to accept our social responsibility that what we consume has an impact. A to-go coffee every weekday for a year is not just caffeine in our system and money out of our bank account.
It’s 260 interactions with our local coffee shop worker.
That person matters. Their job matters.
It’s 260 mornings spent mingling with neighbors while settling into our work day.
The quality of our time matters. The building of community matters.
It’s 260 cups of coffee made from beans that someone, somewhere grew, harvested, sold, and transported.
Their livelihood matters.
It’s 260 disposable cups being added to the landfill.
The Earth matters most of all.
The same rings true for all consumer choices, yet the reality is that our food choices become most damaging of all when we consume blindly. We are in a unique position on the West Side, this community and its commuters, to make some large-scale changes related to our lifestyles and dietary choices.
When was the last time you prepared a meal from real foods that don’t come in a bag, can, or box? A meal made from sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients purchased at a locally owned business that prioritizes people and purpose over profits?
In February 2018, it will not only be possible to do this; we hope it will be easy, with the opening of a new neighborhood-centered, impact-conscious food space.
Hope & Thyme, opening at 1577 Westminster Street, is a food space that will offer wholesome, consciously-packaged ingredients for home cooking and various items for sustainable living; as well as simple, healthy plant-focused prepared fare, coffee, and more; while maintaining an awareness of the impact to our environment, our community and neighbors, and our consumers. We will practice “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR); accounting for the environmental cost of a good into the market price to avoid a loss of energy at the end of a good’s life. In our case, with our focus on package-less and bulk foods, we are removing the packaging, and thus removing the costs associated from production and labor to packaging and disposal.
Basically, if you bring your own container, it costs us (and the food producer) less to provide you with the food, and so you get to pay less for it. Foods that are available in loose bulk quantities tend to be single-ingredient staples such as grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, oils, vinegars, herbs, spices, and more. By nature of being less processed, these foods are also lower in cost, and often higher in nutrition. So we decrease waste and increase energy. Responsible!
Instead of offering reusable cup discounts, we will offer our coffee, tea, and other beverages from our cafe at a lower price with the expectation that the patron is responsible to bring their own vessel or be charged additional for a disposable cup. Prepared foods and salad will be served by the pound in a similar fashion. This is essentially an extension to the idea of shopping for our groceries in bulk, applied to our food counter. Less packaging = less cost all around. Especially to our planet. Again, responsible!
MORE ON THE SPECIFICS OF HOPE & THYME
Hope & Thyme will be a space for food, physically, and encourage others to create an energetic space in their lives to prioritize cooking, eating, and gathering around nourishing seasonal foods. The store’s location at 1577 Westminster was created to provide a grocery store to a neighborhood which is otherwise a food desert. Its convenient location – close to Route 6 and I-95 – make it easily accessible for the neighborhood and beyond.
Our mission is to provide access to, and education about, food and dietary possibilities that support abundance for all stakeholders – the planet; the growers, producers, and distributors; and our employees, neighbors, and patrons. We plan to incorporate English and Spanish words on in-store signage in areas like produce and bulk, as well as having our food counter menu translated for bilingual access.
We will curate a selection of produce with a focus on affordability, freshness, and options. For certain items, such as tomatoes, leafy greens, apples, etc., that are high-risk for pesticide contamination (i.e. “Dirty Dozen"), we will offer both conventional and organic options if the price for organic is preventative to accessibility. We will focus on stocking local whenever price and seasonal availability allow.
Most of our dairy will be sourced locally from Rhode Island, as there are producers that offer accessible pricing for these goods (milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs.) Other refrigerated goods will include bottled juices, fermented products, and non-dairy alternatives for milk, meats, and cheeses.
In alignment with our goal to alleviate environmental burdens created by a chemical- and transportation-heavy food industry, we will be sourcing exclusively local and regional meat. There are a variety of producers in Rhode Island and regionally that raise animals for consumption with different standards – meaning, we will be able to offer a local conventional standard meat and poultry, as well as a higher grade of grass-fed or pasture-raised meat. We will also stock locally-caught seafood.
For items that can’t easily be sourced in bulk at this time, we will fill our shelves with quality boxed and canned grocery items. Consideration will be given to a variety of factors (such as: how close to Rhode Island is the item prepared and packaged, and how eco-friendly is the packaging); however, ultimate decisions in inventory will be anchored in affordability. We will source the items to makes us a destination for a “full shop,” including bread, baby food and diapers, pet food, personal care and toiletries, household cleaners and necessities (trash bags, foil, paper towels, etc.), health and wellness items, and bulk herbs and spices.
Slightly outside of our main mission of natural-based and package-free living, but in alignment with providing the community access to basic goods, we will also stock convenience items such as personal-sized snacks and beverages, over-the-counter analgesics and antacids (Tylenol, Tums, etc), lighters and matches, and other typical convenience items.
Our food counter will offer quick meal options for supporting health. We will need to get creative in our sourcing to bring the most options to the small kitchen space there, and we have some basic goals as to what we want to offer. Over time, we will be able to get these options made locally and sustainably. Currently, we are contacting local and regional makers of high-quality prepared foods to search for solutions based on collective efforts to be impact conscious.
We want to offer glass-bottled cold-pressed juice, vegetable smoothies, and plant milk. We want to offer healing mineral-dense broths – both bone-based and plant-based – served hot by the cup or cold to heat later. We will make fresh soups, and a variety of sweet and savory “healthy bowls” of oats, grains, or greens. We will have a build-your-own-salad bar with a rotation of seasonal vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. We will source the freshest bakery items, serve Equal Exchange coffee, and pour nitro cold brew and local Katalyst Kombucha on tap.
Join us in creating a space for food. With a little hope, and a little time, we can restore ritual around what we consume, especially food and drink, to ground ourselves into the experience of being human and participating in community.
We will open our doors on February 16, 2018. We are committed. We will work to leverage the resources of an already bountiful and sustainably-minded extended food network to offer a selection of new possibilities to the community and its commuters. Imagine bringing your mason jar, cloth bags, and salad bowl down the street to Hope & Thyme for your afternoon bone broth, conversation with neighbors, light vegetable fare, and your dinner ingredients. Without creating waste. While really living, in our place.
Follow our story on Instagram @hopeandthyme. If you’d like to support our best opening possible, please visit our website at www.hopeandthyme.com. We will be running a pre-sale on gift cards and there will be perks for our early supporters, including discounts on your groceries for all of 2018.
Liberate your plate.