Laura Bonds wrote this PGF story.
INSPIRE Community Café is a restaurant built to support the people of Memphis through food and togetherness. Cofounder and owner Kristin Fox-Trautman’s love for people is omnipresent in the business, and her compassion shines at the restaurant. INSPIRE offers a gathering place to connect and provides jobs and a living wage to individuals re-entering the community after being incarcerated. A sense of serving others is the catalyst for every aspect of the mission, including furthering economic justice and contributing to sustainable efforts. With healthy food at reasonable prices, it’s a natural fit for the student wanting to work in a coffee shop ambiance, the coworkers dreaming up their next project, the on-the-go family wanting quick but nourishing food and everyone in between.
The café is located in a shopping center next to a busy intersection on Sam Cooper. Driving by, one might easily miss the unassuming bistro, but step inside and you’ll discover a cozy oasis. Guests gather on couches, at upcycled wooden tables or in the private meeting space secluded by decorative shelves. The space is large enough to operate the kitchen, ordering bar and seating area, but small enough to provide a neighborly atmosphere; the sofas, art on the walls and chalkboard signs offer a feeling of home in this comfortable space.
Kristin’s background in nonprofit work demonstrates the empathy she has for humanity. Working for 25 years in nonprofit management, youth development and nonprofit consulting, Kristin is mission-driven to her core. Her curiosity about people blossomed during her education at Rhodes College and through her postgraduate studies in anthropology. A hunger to serve others followed Kristin in each of her professional roles and is ever-present at INSPIRE. With the community at the forefront of INSPIRE’s mission and team goals, it was an easy decision for Kristin to implement sustainability as one of the restaurant’s key values and commit to environmentally-friendly operations from the onset.
It’s important to Kristin to do as much as she can at INSPIRE to contribute to a comprehensive strategy for sustainability. In building out the space, the team partnered with a carpenter to create tables, shelves and paneling from repurposed pallet board. The lacquered tables were crafted with care for conversation and collaboration, and as Kristin explains, this work provided an added bonus of allowing the staff to acquire new skills.
Complementing the effort to use refurbished furniture, INSPIRE uses energy efficient fixtures in its space. The whimsical light fixture in the meeting room not only adds a fun and beautiful art element, but serves to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint, too. When ordering food to go, meals are served using compostable products, rather than the styrofoam takeout containers used at other fast casual health food restaurants.
In addition to utilizing upcycled furniture, being mindful of energy output and using green containers, INSPIRE’s carbon footprint is minimized by relying on farmers and restaurants in the Memphis area for some of the restaurant’s goods. Local vendors like Carpenter Art Garden, Thistle & Bee and La Baguette supply the restaurant with fresh ingredients and products and the chalkboard menu proudly highlights the businesses from which INSPIRE sources.
Though INSPIRE has recently completed Project Green Fork certification, Kristin has no plans to stop there. Her next venture in the green space is to develop a more robust recycling program for the restaurant. While these steps may seem small individually, they make an impact when added together, just as INSPIRE is a singular business doing good, but the restaurant industry contributes to a bigger picture environmentally.
Kristin hopes the restaurant industry can unite and improve overall sustainability, and she is grateful to Project Green Fork in taking the lead and creating a model for the restaurant community in Memphis. “If there were widespread compliance or involvement, we could encourage others to do more and the impact could be huge,” Kristin explains. Restaurants employ a significant number of people and are a substantial contributor to the economy, so coming together in support of sustainability would have momentous positive effects on the environment. Through Project Green Fork certification, INSPIRE and Kristin are connected to this larger cause.
INSPIRE is on a quest to advance economic justice and be a good neighbor in the Memphis community. The restaurant inspires people through its business model and commitment to sustainable principles. Community is in the restaurant’s name and the business lives up to that value through its support of staff, its encouragement of connection among Memphis citizens and its dedication to environmentally-conscious practices. Kristin’s love of others flavors the food at INSPIRE and infuses a community spirit and supportive atmosphere among its guests.