Our story starts in Riverside, Rhode Island...
Proud Mary's didn't start as a donut shop. Proud Mary's started as a conversation about main street revitalization. The main streets of small towns all across New England, and the businesses that fill them, struggle to stay relevant and open in our current economic environment. The question our team is asking is; must we accept the decline of main street retail outside of a handful affluent communities? Is there a new approach that can be taken?
To answer this question we started in a place we know well--our own community. Riverside is a small coastal town of 20,000 people just outside of Providence. In its cultural heyday Riverside was a coastal entertainment destination with multiple amusement parks and a train station to bring in the visiting tourists. Almost a century later the station (without the train) and one carousel remain. The formerly quaint historic town center, Riverside Square, sits with multiple commercial vacancies and physical infrastructure in decline. The obstacles are plain to see, but so are to opportunities.
What never left Riverside, but rather retreated to the residential streets and neighbor parks, was our sense of community. We want to be connected. We want to be a part of something. The collective community pulse is strong despite the town center's decline.
All communities need a place to gather. Those places can be parks, libraries, front yards, or beaches (if you're lucky!). When you consistently bring a cross section of any community together under a common roof relationships strengthen and flourish. Proud Mary's is one piece of our plan to bring people together in our town center again. Our mission and imperative is to do it in a sustainable way.
Our criteria for the business was a product with broad appeal, a simple business model, and one that allowed us to provide equitable pay to our staff. Bonus points for donuts being delicious, fun to eat, and even more fun to share with your friends and neighbors. An invaluable data point that made the business case for food and beverage in our humble town center was a market analysis done by the city. The report found that millions of dollars of Riverside food and beverage spending was leaving the local community on an annual basis and going to neighboring communities. One neighbor with many big box stores and chain food and beverage establishments stood out. The advantages of big box (and online) retail aren't lost on us. There is real value for the consumer in certain larger retail environments. However, the case for corporate (chain) food and beverage is much less solid. We believe that locally based food and beverage holds significant promise for "main street" revitalization. We can deliver on almost every promise made by the corporate giants and in some cases outperform them in food and beverage. Sustainable revitalization only works, in the long-term, when the local business meets or exceeds the promises made the larger entities.
Sustainable local businesses play a critical role in enlarging local economies. Money spent at locally owned businesses disproportionately stays in the local community. Studies have shown that local businesses create as much as 50% local economic activity as result of more local payroll and procurement. Additionally when the owners reside in the local community the profits created often stay in the community as well.
So what is Proud Mary's? Proud Mary's is a project that at its core is about bolstering Riverside's micro economy in a pragmatic way. As an (awesome) byproduct we think we just happened to create a pretty kick ass donut shop.
So please join us in our pragmatic revolution. Build something that your community needs and (most importantly) that you believe in.