Several people have asked me about the New Riverside Cafe. I had mentioned in a previous blog entry that it wasn’t your typical restaurant. Those that knew it would call that description an understatement.
First off, it was a vegetarian restaurant, where the protein came from vegetable sources instead of animal sources. You see, it takes 16 pounds of vegetable protein to produce 1 pound of animal protein and that just didn’t seem like an efficient use of scarce resources to our founding fathers and mothers.
Second, it was a worker owned and managed business, a Workers’ Collective. During the time I was there, we bought and rehabbed our building and grew the business to a million dollars of annual operating income, back in 1985 dollars. So, if anyone tells you that workers, or artists, can’t run their own businesses, tell them that they are wrong and don’t trust them with your means of production.
Finally, we really believed in local content and control. Our walls were hung with art from local (that would be West Bank, with a rare show by a greater Minneapolitan or or one of them St. Paulites from across the river) artists, we had a stage for local and regional musicians, we hosted a weekly radio show for KFAI featuring local performers, we published an irregular newspaper with a slogan like “Freedom is only Secured when every Restaurant has a Printing Press” and, oh yeah, we bought our ingredients from local farmers and suppliers, organic whenever possible.
The New Riverside Cafe was what you’d call a “mission-driven business”. Opened in 1970, it was an effort to turn some of the ideas from the ’60s into action. It’s an effort that continues today, in many places by many people throughout the North Country.