Meet Molly Bee, Dayton’s vegan ‘influencer’

What has she discovered since opening a restaurant? “The Miami Valley has a serious sweet tooth”

Molly Blackshear is the co-owner of a relatively new Dayton restaurant. When she posts on her social media pages, she gets instant and sizable responses. When she’s out in the real world, many millennials and Gen Xers know who she is. Blackshear exudes “influencer” energy.

We talked with Blackshear, aka Molly Bee, about her restaurant, her various views, and how she perceives — and uses — her influencer “magic.”

Tell us about yourself.

I live in Lower Dayton View, and have been in Dayton all but a few years: when I studied briefly in Chicago and lived in Athens, Georgia.

You are a co-owner of Café 1610. Tell us about it.

We are Dayton’s only all-vegan restaurant. The café opened Sept. 5 shortly after a conversation about how desperately a vegan restaurant was needed. An opportunity to open in the District Provisions Building was available so we jumped on it.

What influenced you to become a vegan? How long have you been one?

I have been a vegetarian since birth (before birth, really) and became vegan in 2017. My influences were from my parents, who raised me vegetarian. My vegan life began after I realized if I was vegetarian for ethical reasons, I needed to take it to the next level for the same reasons. I thought, if I’m going to do this, I needed to do it the right way. I saw how the dairy industry is cruel and the practices that lead to the milk and other products you consume are unethical and unnecessary.

Credit: Skip Peterson

Credit: Skip Peterson

How has the Dayton and Miami Valley vegan community responded to your restaurant?

The vegan community has been very supportive and we’re still being discovered. One thing I can say is the Miami Valley has a serious sweet tooth — people love doughnuts and our Black Barn Veganry shakes! But vegans aren’t the only people we want to reach; we want the curious and those who don’t believe vegan dishes can be tasty and affordable. And I love having challenging conversations about plant-based living!

You are very popular in the Dayton area, in a terrestrial sense, and also on digital/social media. Are you aware of this, and why do you think this is?

Yes, I’m aware because I have a lot of friends who come in the café every day. I’m a very social person and people tell me they follow my Instagram and Facebook posts; and I feel it’s because I bring something a little different to the table.

I could describe your gift/effect on people as influencer energy. Would you agree? And if so, explain your influencer “magic.”

I’m very flattered by your question. I’ve always known I was a little different — whether it was the lunches I had packed for me; the foods I chose to eat or the friendships I made — kind of going against the grain. I was kind of, low key, the “weird kid.” Now, as being vegan has become more mainstream, people are coming to me asking me about being vegan. As far as the influencer “magic,” I think I have always tried to be true to who I am, and that’s Molly Bee.”

From looking at your Facebook and Instagram pages, you really love Dayton. Why do you love this city? What about it do you love?

Truly, I think I have what might be a love/hate relationship with Dayton. I get frustrated with it not meeting its potential, and I will always love it for how resilient and inventive it is. I admire those who are taking a leap of faith, channeling their entrepreneurial spirit and who have vested interests in the revitalization of the city.

Besides your restaurant and your regular endeavors in the city, are there any other community activities you are involved in?

I love to skate, period! There’s no time for anything else!

What do you see yourself doing in the next few years? Where do you see yourself, location-wise?

To be honest, this is how I describe it to others: I don’t view myself as an owner of a restaurant, but as an entrepreneur; I’m open to seeing where this goes because I feel the movement I would like to be a part of is larger than the café. By that, I mean I am open to what doors might open from networking and working hard. I dream a lot. This is only one platform I plan on using. We’ll see where it leads. I can only think day to day as a restaurant owner during a pandemic; however I’m eager to see where it may lead.

If someone wanted to contact you about any of your projects/business, how can they do so?

Stop in from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at Café 1610 at 521 Wayne Ave., or get in touch at cafe1610.dayton on Instagram; or welcome2mollysworld on my IG.

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