PROVIDENCE — Just behind fresh coats of black and bright green paint, it was one of the hottest days of the year and Kimi Rich never stopped moving.
She was wiping down the wooden bar that she made from remnants of old bowling alley floorboards she had lying in her garage while pouring glasses of water, flipping through the pages of her bar menu to make sure she had every beer can listed in stock, and answering every question that Oona, her free-spirited 5-year-old daughter, asked as she was twirling and skipping around the empty tables of her mom’s new bar prior to opening one afternoon.
“For years, people told me that I should open my own bar,” said Rich, who has a large following among fellow industry workers. “I always knew in the back of my head that I would break off, and open my own baby.”
And after initially seeing the space more than three years ago, she finally opened Kimi’s Bar in the West End neighborhood of Providence earlier this month. She’s the sole owner of Kimi’s — without any outside investors or funding — making the bar a woman- and bartender-owned jewel in an industry that is still male-dominated, and where spots often has multiple partners or outside fundraising.
And she got to this point on her own.
“I thought I would easily find woman-owned business grants and loans, but after coming out of the pandemic, no one had any interest in bars. Nobody was funding them,” said Rich, who said she borrowed against her house and used her and her husband’s savings to make Kimi’s a reality. “Trust me, I looked for a grant everywhere.”
On a recent visit she described Kimi’s as an elevated neighborhood bar where various aspects of herself are “sprinkled throughout.”
Kimi’s front garage door opens when the weather is nice, expanding the bar’s seating with picnic tables, and the cackling shake of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker can be heard from the street.
There’s a shining emerald green backsplash where each rectangular tile was hand-painted by an artist. There will be plants that will soon scatter the room, which holds a handful of booths and long, tavern hall-style tables with bench seating. The logo is of a fish with strong long legs, holding a beer, and is posing in a pair of black pumps, a crop top and bikini bottoms.
And her beer list is several pages long. There are more than 60 cans and pints available on draft in total — including local brews from Long Live Beerworks, Proclamation, Tilted Barn, Massachusetts-based Night Shift, Maine Beer Co., and Connecticut-based Two Roads.
“I was really intentional in not owning a cocktail bar,” said Rich, who then admitted that she built her current menu after writing out about 50 various cocktails she wanted to include before narrowing them down to about six, such as Maxamillian’s Butterfly French 75, named after and created by bartender Max Prussner, who followed Rich from the Boombox. It uses Empress gin, lemon juice, a house-made butterfly pea flower simple syrup, and bubbly prosecco.
Or the “Maine Man” ($10), which is an easy-drinking whiskey-based cocktail with light amounts of maple syrup to tame the the sharpness of the liquor going down.
Each of the cocktails use juices from freshly-squeezed fruits, and the syrups are made on site. “We are not a bar that carries sour mix,” said Prussner, who also makes music and owns Prussner Printing & Design, which serves several area food businesses like PVDonuts, Churros R.I., and Andrade’s Catch.
Kimi’s kitchen isn’t yet up and running because Rich said they are still waiting on the oven she ordered months ago. But by the end of August, she said she plans on serving snacks such as creative (and affordable) English muffin-style pizzas with toppings that are sourced from local artisans and farmers.
On the night of their grand opening, Masa Taqueria was serving their famous tacos and birria under a tent outside of the bar, lines of customers ordered one drink after another, and parked Triumph motorcycles lined up outside while DJs Norlan and Nick Bishop spun tunes. By midnight, many of those swarming the outside of Kimi’s had just got off their shift at another local restaurant in downtown, on the East Side, or Federal Hill. Many knew Rich and the others shaking cocktails, taking orders, and pulling on draft lines, and were intentional in traveling to the West End to end the night. The other businesses in the strip lot that Rich is located on are all women-owned, she said.
“The West End is up-and-coming. It could be the new, must-hang out section of the city,” said Rich. “And we’re going to help build that.”
Kimi’s Bar is located at 373 Washington St. in Providence. They are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m, Fridays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. They are closed on Tuesdays. kimis.bar. Check their Instagram for updates.