By Paula Roy –
The sign on the wall reads: “Pure Raw Joy,” which may sound like an audacious promise for a little vegan eatery, but for Raw Pulp + Grind it’s a proven concept. The young company launched its second destination in Westboro on October 4.
Co-owners Melissa Shabinsky, Jordan O’Leary (of Morning Owl coffee fame), Nicola Wharton Valente and Richard Valente (of Fratelli restaurants and Roberto pizza) have created a spot that offers not only healthy, plant-based cuisine but also a friendly, energetic vibe.
Cold-pressed juices are complemented by an impressive line-up of healthy fare, including smoothies, salads, acai bowls and raw wraps. The “grind” part of the name refers to coffee, tea tonics, and “superfood” lattes.
“We hadn’t planned to grow the business quite this quickly,” admits Nicola. “When we opened the first location on Preston Street last October, we really didn’t know what to expect and it just took off. People have been asking when we would open a second shop, so earlier this year we began our search. We knew we wanted to be in Westboro. It’s a great fit for us, with lots of pedestrian traffic, many young families who are among our most loyal clients as well as several high schools nearby. We have seen on Preston that teenagers have really embraced this style of eating; they seem to like that it’s as pretty to look at as it is delicious and healthy.”
The décor at Raw Pulp + Grind complements the fresh fare on the menu. A distressed barn board wall studded with planters is an Instagram-worthy backdrop. There are live edge wood tables, handcrafted for the store, as well as a garage door which adds to the shop’s ‘see and be seen’ cachet. A spirit-lifting ambiance is anchored by the cheerful staff working behind the white service counter.
“We continually work hard on reinforcing our corporate culture,” notes Nicola. “We want to make sure all our staff understand that service excellence is as important as the quality of our products. I think we’re doing a good job because we have very low staff turnover now and we see our staff forming genuine friendships, which is nice. It adds to the happiness factor, for sure.”
The high volumes Raw Pulp + Grind has enjoyed on Preston Street are likely to be surpassed on Richmond Road. Day one saw a steady stream of customers, many of whom seemed very familiar with the menu and were delighted to welcome this business to the neighbourhood.
“There are a lot of people in this area who value a healthy lifestyle,” says Jordan. “We have something different to offer without taking away from other area spots like Pure Kitchen, which is more of a restaurant, versus our juice-focused, healthy ‘fast food’ approach. We look forwarding to welcoming long-time and new customers, especially those with food allergies as we take pride in being a safe zone for them.”