Baking is Parvin Okai’s love language. The Providence native kept the summer launch of his custom dessert business, Okai Sweets, low key, partly because he was uncomfortable charging for his sensational treats. The baking bug struck Okai early and, by high school, he graduated from Betty Crocker mixes to experimenting with his own recipes. “I’d bring my baked goods to school so friends could try out the recipes,” he explains, making him possibly the most popular kid at Classical.
The Johnson & Wales graduate also works in the kitchen at Broadway Bistro and it was owner Patrick Lowney who encouraged Okai’s side hustle, offering to purchase the handcrafted desserts for the restaurant. The Slow Rhode restaurant joined soon after. Okai makes his custom creations for restaurants, special events, or simply anyone with a sweet tooth. “If you want me to make your grandma’s cookies, I’ll try to recreate them,” he says. Okai-Sweets.com
Since the mid-90s, coffee fanatic Neal Kaplan dreamed of opening a coffee shop. A contractor with experience building out cafes – the RISD grad worked on The Nitro Bar’s Pond Avenue (Newport) location and the remodel of PVDonuts, to name a few – he merged his experience crafting third spaces with his love of java and opened Rise ‘n Shine Coffee Bar on Holden Street, just off of Smith Street. “There are so many professionals in the area, and I would see them walking to Dunkin,” he says.
Kaplan sources his coffee – a special blend made specifically for the cafe – from a local coffee roaster, and the pastries are from L'Artisan Café in Wayland Square. A fun touch is to-go hot coffee poured in old-school Greek diner coffee cups. Kaplan, a 40-year Smith Hill resident, opened the cafe hoping to bring more foot-traffic to the area and jump-start revitalization, explaining, “I am involved, committed, and invested in this neighborhood.” RiseNShineRI.com
The West Side’s bar scene got a little more vibrant with the opening of Kimi’s Bar by beloved Rhody bartender Kimi Rich. With 13 years’ experience running local watering holes, she knew exactly the space she wanted to open. “I wanted a friendly, inviting place that everyone from the neighborhood can go to,” she explains of the impetus to set up her own bar. “It’s not divey, not stuffy – just a positive atmosphere,” which includes a green-tiled accent wall, lending the old factory space a botanical feel.
The cocktail menu is limited by design, with the focus on crafting the freshest seasonal cocktails, featuring either house-pressed or locally cold-pressed juice. There are 60 local beers in cans or bottles, plus four rotating draft options. Once the back-ordered oven arrives, Kimi’s will offer a variety of English muffin pizzas to snack on. For those with heartier appetites, she plans on hosting food trucks outside. Kimis.bar
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