New Downtown Grocery Store, Eatery Showcases Hope & Main’s Food Entrepreneurs
January 21, 2023
PROVIDENCE — Hope & Main, a food-business incubator based in Warren has opened the doors of its new Downtown Makers Marketplace at 100 Westminster St.
The combination eatery and grocery store features food and drinks from Hope & Main makers and will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
“This is a place where we can be conscious consumers,” Lisa Raiola, founder and president of Hope & Main, told a crowd of onlookers who came to the market’s Jan. 18 grand opening. “We can make intentional choices to support small local businesses, to drive job creation, and to build a stronger and more equitable food system for Rhode Island.
“Food has this amplifying effect. For every $1 we spend in the local food economy, that’s worth $1.30 to the overall economy … for every 10,000 square feet of grocery space that we create for selling local food, we create 24 jobs.”
Hope & Main launched the market with support from Papitto Opportunity Connection and Paolino Properties.
The grocery section of the store features more than 100 products, all made by Hope & Main makers, 40% of whom are people of color, and 60% of whom are women. To Raiola, the market is as much about local food as it is about equity.
“It can take years to get on a (grocery store) shelf; it can be very expensive. There are many barriers to getting on a shelf. We just removed those barriers for small businesses,” Raiola said. “People who started a business a few months ago … they’re already able to get their products here right away.”
Hope & Main has more than 200 active maker-members, and it has launched more than 450 companies since its founding in 2014.
Meet Your Maker
Before the official store opening, Raiola stood in front of a row of new refrigerators lined with Hope & Main products as she described each of them with visible pride.
She pointed to a jar of Chi Kitchen kimchi, made by food entrepreneur Minnie Luong, who was born on a rice farm in Vietnam and who moved to the United States as a child. And there’s The Perfect Empanada, a company started by Pablo Mastandrea, who left his corporate career in 2018 to start the business.
Especially dear to Raiola are the Nourish Our Neighbors prepared meals in the refrigerated section. When customers buy one of these $20 single-serving meals, another meal is automatically donated to a neighbor in need at distribution points throughout the state. The meals are prepared by Hope & Main makers, who make 200 to 300 meals, and are paid $10 per meal.
According to Raiola, the program, which has distributed 50,000 meals since March 2020, is the only all-local food provided by Rhode Island’s emergency food-assistance program.
In the coming months, Hope & Main’s Downtown Makers Marketplace will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the Providence community, with plans to host guest chefs, maker tastings, and pop-ups.