Thrive 300 51518Derek Fleming affixes the sign of his times for his new business.

In plenty of time for Porchfest and Feast of the East, Thrive Café has just opened at 169 Mass. Ave., next to art gallery 13Forest.

Owner Derek Fleming, 28, brings you healthy, alternative eating -- and not only intriguing smoothies.

"We're not just juices," he said May 14, as he sat in a sunny window of his shop. "We offer a full range of alternative, healthy food, made to order."

The café is new to town -- it opened May 2 -- but the focus on health at that location is not. With a partner, Fleming opened The Green Light at the East Arlington address last November. The latter company owns juice bars in Belmont (now closed), Hingham and Duxbury.

In the meantime, Fleming bought out his partner, so he could follow his vision -- a place that went beyond food offerings limited to a display case. Sample a few tastes from Thrive's menu

-- Spicy Avocado: Avocado, Himalayan Sea Salt, Tomato, Jalapeno, Drizzled with hot sauce

-- Loaded Toast: Almond Butter, Banana, Pumpkin Seed and homemade Mixed Berry Sauce

-- Mediterranean Salad: Spinach, Cucumber, Tomato, Falafel, Red Onion, Dried Cranberries and Quinoa tossed with Tahini Sauce and Hummus

Taste those words: Red Onion, Dried Cranberries and Quinoa tossed with Tahini Sauce ....

'100-percent plant based'

He spoke rapidly, with animation, as he outlined his view of "fast food" that leads to good health. The key phrase was "100-percent plant-based."

In addition to customers with stomach issues seeking gentler fare, Fleming said his menu also considers taste.

Is Thrive Café for vegans? It is, but Fleming shies away from using that word. (Merriam-Webster says a "vegan" is a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals.

He steers clear of "organic," too, calling it a tricky term. It leads us to discussions about organic and genetically modified organisms, as well as certifying organizations, which require payment (Fleming prefers not to do that).

"Are you 100% organic?" the FAQ on Thrive's website asks. "Answer - No, we are not 100% organic although we use many organic items we do have items that are not organic. All of the liquids we use are organic except for the cashew milk. We also use only organic locally grown wheat grass.

Best on menu?

Philosophy aside, let's get down to basics. The FAQ asks: "What's the best thing on the menu?"

Derek FlemingFleming welcomes you with a smile.

"Answer - ... both green juices are very popular [and] as for smoothies, my personal favorite is the East A with kale; it pairs nicely with some spicy avocado toast."

All businesses have have their links to an owner's past, so what is behind Fleming's interest in plant-based food?

Sixteen months ago, he said, he began following a plant-based diet to deal with lifelong weight issues. Over last 12 months, he has lost 96 pounds, he said, looking trim in a blue company T-shirt with a Thrive logo.

quote Thrive Cafe, 169 Mass. Ave., Arlington | 781-777-1561This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

8 to 5 Monday through Friday

9 to 5, Saturday

10 to 4, Sunday


As we spoke, a mom waited with a baby carriage. As a blender whirred, spinning out a purple, so do two young girls, waiting for Allie's blue-rapsberry lemonade, a smoothie created by one of Fleming's employees, her birthday special. Fleming says he wants employees "to make decisions on their own."

Above the counter, a banner displays the sources for his plants: Backyard Farm, Madison, Maine; Czajkowski Farm, Hadley, Mass.; Wilson Farms, in Maine, not the one in Lexington; and Northern Orchard, Peru, N.Y.

Locally, Thrive uses the Produce Connection, based in Wakefield with a warehouse in Chelsea.

As to his store, it's owner-occupied -- he loves Arlington and is "here" seeking success, as long as it takes, and would not have it any other way.

"I really want to get to know people," he said, and, as a result, "I know their dog's names. There's not enough of this in the world."

The Northampton native graduated from UMass Dartmouth with a degree in business. He worked five years for ADP, a payroll company, and in admissions for his alma mater. He decided he wanted to put his degree to more direct use and help a small business grow.

Above right are Thrive's hours. Fleming is there every day.

This news summary was published on Wednesday, May 16, 2018.