In the name of vegan: Wild Chestnut Café opens in Florence

  • A peanut butter bomb and salad at the Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence, co-owned by Myssie Lacharite and Rosalie Black. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Myssie Lacharite, a co-owner of Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence, makes peanut butter bombs on Friday, Jan. 14. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence co-owned by Myssie Lacharite and Rosalie Black. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rosalie Black, a co-owner of Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence with Myssie Lacharite, serves customers creamy carrot ginger soup on Friday, Jan. 14, about a week after the eatery opened in the former Cafe Evolution location. Bottom left, peanut butter bomb and salad. At right, Black and Lacharite in the café. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Vegan cupcakes at the Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rosalie Black and Myssie Lacharite, who co-own Wild Chestnut Cafe in Florence, in the dinning space on Friday, Jan. 14. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/26/2022 2:01:25 PM
Modified: 1/26/2022 2:00:08 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Myssie Lacharite and Rosalie Black, the owners of a new cafe in Florence, say they are creating “a space that facilitates compassion for all,” and that includes animals.

The vegan activists opened Wild Chestnut Cafe on Jan. 8 at 22 Chestnut St., the building once occupied by Cafe Evolution, a vegan eatery that closed in September. Lacharite and Black bought Cafe Evolution’s kitchen equipment and took over the lease.

The pair said they were inspired to open a restaurant after starting their activism work in downtown Northampton about four years ago.

“Our goal for this cafe is to spread more compassion throughout the world,” Black said. “We do this work for the animals and the power of food is our chosen method of activism.”

The food contains no animal products like meat, dairy, eggs or honey. Lacharite and Black use alternative ingredients like soy milk, oat milk and non-dairy butter.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wild Chestnut Cafe is only offering curbside pickup and to-go ordering for now. A limited menu of baked goods, soup, salad, smoothies, and warm beverages is available, but the owners hope to expand the menu to offer sandwiches and pasta dishes in the future.

“You can literally take anything that’s not vegan, make it vegan and it’s delicious,” Lacharite said.

Lacharite, a Granby native, was the kitchen manager at Cafe Evolution and has more than 20 years of experience working in restaurants, she said. Black, an Amherst native, said she has worked at Pulse Cafe and Esselon Cafe, both vegan spots in Hadley, and at The Source by Wolfgang Puck in Washington, D.C.

Wild Chestnut Cafe’s grand opening featured Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra’s first ribbon-cutting ceremony since taking office in January. Sciarra also made the first purchase at the cafe, buying cinnamon rolls for her family.

“We were expecting some type of support, but we were pretty blown away by the amount of people that showed up, and we sold out of our cinnamon rolls in an hour,” Black said. “We had a line out the door before we even opened.”

Lacharite and Black are brainstorming ways to highlight local vegan art and books and host educational events, perhaps focused on helping people start a plant-based diet, and to take orders online. Black said they are “excited to evolve and grow just like the vegan movement.”

Wild Chestnut Cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Brian Steele can be reached at
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