A vibrant purple building near the beginning of Manayunk’s Main street, The Volstead by Unity is the newest addition to the lively town, having opened earlier this month. But The Volstead is unique, and not just for its 100% vegan menu and alcohol-free bar.
The Volstead has four goals, according to their website: sustainability, wellness, community and social investment. The vegan dishes are a pledge to “long-term ecosystem sustainability.” The zero proof libations pertain to their focus of wellness, leaving customers “feeling great in the morning.”
The commitments to community and social investment are reflected in who the restaurant hires. Branding the restaurant as a “recovery-friendly” business, owners Robert and Arielle Ashford, who are in recovery themselves, aim to hire those also in recovery or those returning from incarceration, and to provide a conducive work-place.
“Philadelphia reentry programs, prison society, our community center, our community partners that have worked with us at all the different concepts, they certainly refer people over,” Robert Ashford said. “And then, also the people that we’ve hired at other restaurants, they have their own recovery networks and know people in reentry. [They] will send people by word of mouth and others just happen to find us on social media. We try to keep it as low barrier as possible.”
The Volstead, named after the 1919 act prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, is the most recent social enterprise of the Ashfords. Their business concepts include Unity Recovery, Unity Yoga, Unity Taqueria and Unity Java, all of which are recovery-friendly.
TJ von Oehsen is a coordinator for the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, an organization that brings reentry agencies and partners together to offer better support to returning citizens. Von Oehsen said second chance employment, offered by businesses like The Volstead, is a powerful way for businesses to invest in and contribute to the communities they operate in.
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