The Boston Globe has launched a weekly Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses, conducting ground-breaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s conversation is with Kim Anderson, creator and co-founder of Plant City, a plant-based food hall and market in Providence.
Question: Could you briefly describe Plant City and its origins?
Answer: As a plant-based food investor and co-founder of a community nonprofit, Powered By Plants RI, I was regularly hearing from people who were struggling to find easy food options beyond their own kitchens. I wanted to create a place with great atmosphere, wonderful service, and beautiful, delicious food, by partnering with the top chef in this field, Matthew Kenney. We chose four favorites from his 20-plus restaurants and put them under one roof — along with a marketplace, coffee bar, and community cellar for events, classes, and speakers in a beautiful, historic, 13,000-square-foot brick building.
Q: What changes have you witnessed on the former Route 195 land in Providence and what impact has Plant City had?
A: We opened just five months ago and are thrilled to experience the wonderful and varied ways this area is used. From Rhode Island Pride and Pronk! to Providence Flea and WaterFire Providence, it is a vibrant area for community gathering and celebration. The long-awaited Providence River Pedestrian Bridge opening in August has added a beautiful structure and destination that has increased daily walking and bike commuting and attracted many visitors. Plant City is visited daily now by people crossing the river, and we have impacted the area by drawing more than 200,000 guests to a formerly quiet area. Many area businesses tell us they have seen a dramatic rise in foot traffic and associated business.
Q. What is the larger context for businesses catering to vegetarian or vegan customers? How much potential is there?
A: In January, The Economist magazine stated that 37 percent of Americans self-identified as wanting to eat more plants. When you consider the tremendous health and climate/environmental benefits to eating this way, I’m expecting that those impressive numbers will continue to grow. With fabulous films such as “The Game Changers” educating millions on the benefits, I am confident it will. This megatrend creates enormous unmet demand and opportunities for food entrepreneurs who sell directly to consumers. Furthermore, large grocers, restaurant chains, and food companies are now intent on expanding their offerings by purchasing from or acquiring such entrepreneurs.
Q: What is the main message you convey to those you mentor as a board member of the Social Enterprise Greenhouse?
A: I love to mentor and support other young startups with a social mission. I remind them to never be so in love with their idea that they are unwilling to pivot — and to also think big, focusing on how they can scale for maximum impact. I highly recommend they surround themselves with talented, experienced advisers. And I remind them to pay it forward — with their time, talent and treasure — once they have achieved some success.
Q: What is the mission of EverHope Capital, where you are a partner?
A: We founded EverHope Capital to impact investment in businesses that will help create a sustainable planet — from renewable energies, to green chemistry, and plant-based foods. We have and continue to find many businesses that are changing the world for the better and experiencing business success, as well.
Q. What role can businesses play in addressing climate change?
A: As plant-based food companies grow rapidly, making non-animal options widely available, affordable and delicious, they are able to move millions away from animal agriculture, which contributes more to climate crisis than all transportation, globally combined.