A recent vegan-convert (more on that another time), I was intrigued to find out about Portland’s raw juice bar, Roost. This week, I took a break from the Dispatch Office and made my way to the Free Street house of juice to catch up with Roost owners Kathleen Flanagan and Jeanette Richelson. The ladies were more than gracious, letting me try some of their delicious smoothies and juices, and even threw in a vegan dessert to boot, while we chatted about raw food culture, vegan/vegetarian lifestyles, starting a business from scratch, and of course, juice.
When did you guys open?
Jeanette: We opened August 22, 2012.
What made you guys want to open a juice bar?
Jeanette: We were both teaching at Yogave, which is a donations-based yoga studio in Falmouth. The Happy Yogi was going out of business, which is a yoga store on Congress. So I got an email about it and they were looking for people to take it over or do something in that space so I talked to Kathleen and was like”I heard you wanted to have a yoga studio, or a book store, or a coffee shop,” and then Kathleen was like “oh yeah, and I heard you might wanna have a juice bar or something.” So we decided we should talk. One of our first meetings together we met at Arabica and started talking about a vision, basically created a mission statement based on some yoga philosophy and that’s how it began.
Kathleen: Yep. Mission statement started first.
Jeanette: Basically about creating a space that has honest communication, it’s community oriented, it’s flexible, committed to local food and farmers and the abundance that Maine has. And being very transparent in all our ingredients and the source of all of our food.
So when was it that you hatched this plan?
Kathleen: Two years ago.
So what has it been like since you opened?
Kathleen: Exactly what you don’t plan for it to be. I think that’s the funny thing in opening a business, is that you can make all these plans and you can create all these assumptions about what it’s going to be like, including how the money is going to come, or how the business is going to happen and flow and what’s going to sell the most.
Jeanette: Or how this area [the bar behind them] is set up. [Laughs]
Kathleen: Yeah. You make all these predictions and assumptions and plans and then you open the doors and you’re faced with all these slew of things you never thought about so it’s been an exercise in staying present because you have to just be able to honor the process whatever it is. And know that yu can either choose to hold on to the idea that you had, or what it would be, or what it would be like, or you can let go of all of that and just go with the flow.
You both have yoga backgrounds which aids in your mission statement and the entire philosophy of your business, but do you guys have culinary backgrounds as well?
Kathleen: Just started playing around with juices when we created the idea. That’s exactly as far as my culinary background goes. I’d been in the service industry for a really long time but not on the food preparation side. And a couple of things that I had a hand in being a part of as far as menu items go were because they were mistakes. But for the most part Jeanette’s background is in culinary.
Jeanette: I worked at Café Gratitude for a year, a raw vegan café, and that was my introduction to raw foods. Then I did some workshops and basic raw food preparation and I just love raw food preparation and the creative aspect of it. I’ve been playing around with recipes for a while. I did some health coaching. That’s kind of where it started for me.
Are you guys vegan?
Jeanette: Right now, I do follow the vegan lifestyle. Or plant-based diet I like to call it. I first became vegan probably six or seven years ago and I would say I was a very radical vegan. Read all the books, you know, watched all these videos and thought everybody should be vegan and I was really hardcore about it. But then throughout my journey of listening to my body and honoring other peoples’ choices I’m much more, and I guess this is our approach to our business, wanting people to just try on eating this way. We’re not saying that people should eat this way. We’re not preaching any way of eating. It allows for more conversation and understanding. Everyone’s body is different.
Kathleen: I’m a vegetarian. And that’s where I’m at now. I have a “never say never” attitude, now. I used to say I would never be a vegetarian because I was such a meat eater. Then once I became a vegetarian I would say “I would never eat animals again,” but then I thought “but I’ll also never be a vegan!” So there’s a lot to offer just by honoring wherever you’re at right now, and I thnk we’re creating a space that isn’t happening [elsewhere], there aren’t a lot of raw food options anywhere. And we have a lot more on the menu than just raw foods in case that isn’t everybody’s thing or it doesn’t catch on, we also have a few other aspects of things that we can offer that will please everybody. We have decadent smoothies that my meat-eating fiancé loves.
Jeanette: I think this eating more fruits and vegetables is healing.
How does your “buy local” business philosophy affect the menu?
Jeanette: We’re trying to do things as seasonally as possible, so we’re changing the menu for fall/early winter, adding a hot soup and a grain bowl with quinoa rice, then we’ll probably change it again in the spring. We’re definitely adding more food items than what we originally thought we’d have because we’ve found people really enjoy the food.
Kathleen: We opened as a house of jucie but we’re doing a lot more food than we planned. So we’re…[catches herself, laughs]…I almost just said “beefing up the menu.” We’re “vegging up the menu” and taking it to another level: hot soups, hot teas, grain bowls. So that people feel satisfied if they come here and they don’t want to eat something cold and raw in the dead of winter. They have options.
Do you guys get a lot of “first time” raw food eaters?
Kathleen: I feel like just recently I’ve had a lot of people be like “this is my first time so go easy on me; what should I get?” and then they end up sampling a green juice and feeling like “gosh, this is amazing.”
Jeanette: Yeah, we also have had people in here who are on juice fasts or healing from ailments, heart disease or high blood pressure, that are finding their way here and really appreciating it.
Is anyone ever resistant to the raw food menu?
Jeanette: We had a couple people come in and were like “what is this food?!”
Kathleen: They were like, “Where’s the cheese? Do you have a cheese plate?”
Jeanette: I think a lot of people are unsure what “raw food”means, or even not very aware of what vegan food means. We often have extra juice or smoothies when we make them so often we’ll give [that extra] to anyone who’s around for trying and generally people are like “oh wow, this is good!” And that’s really fun. People getting turned on by the raw foods and plant-based food.
Do you guys have a ton of regulars?
Jeanette: We do. That’s been really wonderful since we’ve opened. I feel like we have a good amount of regulars and right now we’re just trying to get the word out more to people that we’re here because I feel like a lot of people still don’t know we’re around.
***For those on the go with a hankering for juice, Roost happily does to-go orders. If you have time to sit, consider wandering in on a Wednesday night, as they feature half-priced vegan-friendly bottles of wine with an order of any menu item. Got kids? Roost is proud to be family-friendly, boasting “Kids Are Free Fridays,” with an order from the adult menu. And brunch lovers, stay tuned: they’ll soon be opening their doors for weekend brunch, complete with vegan French Toast. Happy juicing!