Providence’s Bolt Coffee and Knead Bakery offer coffee & doughnuts, with a side of community building. What’s not to like?
Bryan Gibb’s parents instilled in him from a very young age foundational elements that have helped him throughout his life: creativity, hard work, generosity, and always to ask the question what if. . .
Gibb has since taken these elements and used them as the main ingredients in his two Providence-based businesses: Bolt Coffee Co. and Knead Doughnuts. What else is in his sweet sauce? Community, above all else.
Bolt started in 2012 as a side project for Gibb and his business partner and friend, Todd Mackey, while they were both working in coffee at the same company. With that what if ringing in his ear, Gibb and Mackey took a leap of faith, knowing they had a supportive community behind them.
“We scraped together a little bit of money and bought some coffee equipment to cater espresso at weddings and do pop-ups on the weekends,” says Gibb. “I was 21 at the time, and two years in, I lost my job because of a conflict of interest with my then-current employer, and so I decided to pursue Bolt full time.”
Towards the end of 2013, some folks at The Dean Hotel approached Gibb and Mackey to see if they could set up a coffee bar in the hotel they were building, just another example of the ways in which Providence continues to be uber-supportive of startups. “I’ve always seen new businesses being supported in a way that doesn’t make much sense in New England, but people love to help new things take life here,” Gibb says.
Skip ahead to 2016. Bolt Coffee has tripled its staff and opened a second location at the RISD Museum, a feat that Gibb says could not have happened without the support of his wife, Rachel, and their two-year-old son, Beckham—in addition, of course, to the entire Bolt team.
“I’m not alone. I think that is the one thing that has brought me any success,” says Gibb.
To see how Knead Doughnuts works into the entrepreneurial storyline, we need to hop back to 2014.
“Knead Doughnuts started as an idea in 2012,” says Gibb, “and didn’t start to take shape more fully until 2014, when we brought in Adam Lastrina, who had worked for many years as the general manager of Seven Stars Bakery in Providence.”
With Lastrina taking the brunt of the load as managing partner, Knead opened in January 2017, and the response from Providence has been tremendous since day one. “We are selling coffee and doughnuts, but what we seek to provide is connection,” says Gibb.
Apart from fostering community building, Knead satisfies Providence folks’ need for sugar. Featuring inventive flavors such as Earl Grey, Passion Fruit, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Brown Butter Toffee, Knead is the perfect spot for a Saturday sweet tooth fix.
“Our goal has always been to make spaces for people to connect,” Gibb says. “Coffee has always been for us a very relational thing, interpersonal and very human. First dates, catching up with friends, connecting with new people, talking life, etc.”
Both businesses cater everything from weddings to parties to weeklong events. Knead and Bolt also aim to provide community support through donations and sponsorships.
“Our goal is to do good where we can, however we are able,” says Gibb.
“What I’m trying to do in life and business is bring people together, and build community and relationships. This is reflected in partnerships in my businesses, and is the driving force within them,” Gibb adds. “We don’t do it alone, and my hope is that we can, through our spaces, bring real people into real community.”
Gibb loves that he can foster this sort of environment in New England, a place he has called home his entire life. “There’s something about Providence and New England that loves the underdog,” says Gibb. “The creative community has been so supportive, and continues to foster the what if conversation.”
Bryan Gibb – owner at Bolt Coffee Co. & Knead Doughnuts
Providence, Rhode Island