Life Alive expands to Kendall and Davis squares, expecting openings in the summer near T stops
The Life Alive Organic Cafe has locations coming to Kendall Square and Somerville’s Davis Square, chief executive Bryan Timko said Wednesday. The locations are expected to open this summer.
The small chain, which specializes in healthy, plant-based food such as grain bowls and smoothies – and which this year opened combined cafe-yoga studios in Harvard Square and Boston’s South End in collaboration with the Down Under School of Yoga – was founded in Lowell by Heidi Feinstein in June 2004. She ran it until May 2017 and sold to Ron Shaich, of Brookline, co-founder of Au Bon Pain and founder of Panera Bread.
There are now locations in Lowell, Cambridge, Boston, Brookline and Salem that will be joined by the Cambridge and Somerville sites – both under construction near red line T stops serving office workers and MIT and Tufts students, respectively.
“Life Alive is finding a place in some of Boston’s most energetic neighborhoods and vibrant city squares. According to Nielsen, 40 percent of Americans are ‘actively trying to eat more plant-based foods,’ and that aligns with residents in Kendall Square and Davis Square,” Timko said.
The company said the Kendall Square location will be around 3,700 square feet. The 415 Main St. address was formerly used by a Sebastian’s cafe that shut its doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Though the business lists the location as merely closed “until further notice,” Life Alive appeared on a Cambridge Redevelopment Authority agenda in January to present design plans for the address.
The Davis Square location is around 3,000 square feet and replaces an Au Bon Pain that announced its closing in June 2020. The site has been dark since, but passersby spotted construction and painting inside in late January; an ensuing discussion on the Davis Square Facebook group revealed that the secret was already out and Life Alive was named as the next business in the space.
Both locations will have outdoor patio seating and be open from breakfast through dinner, seven days a week, 363 days a year, the company said. Life Alives are generally open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., though hours may vary slightly by location. The Kendall Square location is due before the License Commission on Monday with a 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. request for an eatery with 96 seats, for a total occupancy of 104.
Timko demurred on answering about the costs of the openings and whether the company had additional locations on the horizon.
The possibility of new menu items or approaches to the formula – along the lines of the yoga studio combinations – was answered with a suggestion to wait and see.
“Life Alive has a track record of opening its cafes with a fresh experiment. When we opened Brookline, we launched a program called ‘Mix It Up,’ which created limited-time menu items in collaboration with a diverse cohort of local wellness, student and food experts. When we opened Harvard Square and the South End, we launched a ‘Happiness Sabbatical,’” Timko said, referring to an offer of food, classes and a $2,500 stipend so winning participants could “focus on their personal wellness.”
“To Life Alive, an opening isn’t just an opening. It’s an opportunity to communicate our values and add something new to the wellness conversation,” Timko said.
Shaich is also majority owner of Cambridge-born Tatte Bakery & Cafe, and his Act III Holdings invests in Clover, another Cambridge- and plant-based food concept. The $300 million fund also owns part of the Kendall Square-born CIC coworking empire.