We talked to: Wild Chestnut Cafe
We recently had a lovely conversation with Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence! Read what they had to say about their new vegan cafe!
Welcome to the community! What made you decide to take over the former Cafe Evolution space?
Thank you! We actually had a previous connection to the space already, as Myssie, my incredible friend and business partner, had worked at Cafe Evolution in the past. We became friends through our animal rights activism and passion for veganism and sustainability.
When Cafe Evolution closed and the space became available last fall, it was just one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that we couldn’t pass up. We had always talked and dreamed of opening our own vegan restaurant, and for a while, it was just something we’d daydream about together.
And then, when this opportunity presented itself, we couldn’t believe our luck. It was definitely a very fateful experience, and gave us so much purpose and fulfillment knowing we could continue the activism that Trish and Star had begun with Cafe Evolution. It has all been pretty surreal so far, and it definitely feels like a dream come true. We have felt so energized and grateful every day since opening.
How are things going in these initial weeks since you opened?
Things have been going incredibly well so far. We’ve now been open for a little over 2 months, and we’ve never felt such gratitude in our lives. Every afternoon when we close, we sit down to eat and are rendered speechless by the outpouring of support and interest—shout-out to our beloved regulars!
As we’ve gone through the second month, we’ve gotten into a great flow and can better anticipate how things will go from day to day. Both months have honestly been pretty exciting and though we’re working really hard, it doesn't feel like “work”. When you are business owners and self-employed, there’s just a different energy and it’s a very rewarding experience. Every day, we feel thankful to have the opportunity to create change and positively impact our community.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered in the past two years since the beginning of the pandemic, both personally and professionally?
The pandemic has changed the food industry significantly, and when we opened Wild Chestnut Cafe, we tried to be intentional with our actions and mindful of how to make our customers feel comfortable and safe in our space. It’s not just about signage and masks, but also about how we communicate with people. We want to ensure ease when dining in so customers can prioritize their time for catching up with friends and family while enjoying their meal.
It’s been so impressive to watch people and businesses pivot multiple times throughout the pandemic, and take more time to check in with their mental health. Through these unexpectedly challenging times, we were given this unique opportunity to think about what we really wanted to do and what was most important to us.
Myssie and I feel that we have that opportunity now—to live out our dream by feeding people delicious vegan food and saving the animals. Our main inspiration has and will always be for the well-being of animals, so it brings us immense joy to see our activism positively impacting the world, one vegan cupcake at a time!
As business owners, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
We both enjoy hiking and being out in nature—we actually had our first business meeting at a waterfall! Anything to help us feel present in the moment and to be reminded of why we are doing this work.
We also both love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Getting to play around in a commercial kitchen and come up with creative new recipes to try out has been so much fun! I (Rosalie) personally enjoy going on bike rides or doing yoga or taking my cat on walks. Going out to eat by myself (and not looking at my phone!) is also something I have really been enjoying in the past couple years—I love supporting and trying other vegan restaurants, and I derive immense peace from being present at the table with my food. It also feels good to support other local businesses and check out what other establishments are creating in their kitchens.
Is there anything you’re excited about regarding the business in upcoming months, from new menu items to restaurant updates?
We are excited about so many things as we head into spring. We’ll be offering more menu items and lots of new specials, including more cold drinks and entrees. We are currently looking for different animal sanctuaries to highlight, and for local vegan artists to exhibit their work in our space. We just got our entertainment license for the year, so we’d love to have acoustic music shows, activism workshops, cooking classes, and possibly poetry slams. There are so many potential options, so we’re just seeing what comes up and feels right for the cafe and the community.
For now, we’re just so thrilled to be able to create good energy in our space and in our community, as well as bring delicious vegan offerings to our customers. After all, there’s something so emotional about food, and we want every experience at Wild Chestnut to be about making memories, feeling nourished, and encouraging more compassion and love in the world.