This business profile ran as part of Motif’s Black History Month issue, centering the experiences of Black business owners.
Adena Marcelino’s journey to being one of Providence’s esteemed black business owners started in high school, when she noticed an unfair trend.
“I went to Classical, and it was very diverse,” she shares. “I had friends who were Greek, Armenian, Italian, and Russian. When any of them had big moments, life events like baby showers or funerals, they could find a restaurant that could service them with their culture’s food.” Not so for Marcelino’s family. “In the Black community, that doesn’t exist. After a funeral, we have to cry and cook. When our kids get dressed for prom, their nice meal can’t be what they grew up eating.”
Marcelino’s career first brought her to social services, but on the side, she was always cooking. She’d cook for stress relief, for the odd birthday, baby shower, or funeral. She’s the person in the community who could make culturally relevant food affordably. With a plan to make food commercially, she left case management six years ago and got a job at the ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts to better understand quick-service restaurants.
After two years of restaurant work, Marcelino decided to launch her own business, Black Beans PVD, in 2019, creating an event-style supper club: a five-course meal with chatting and dancing. Once COVID-19 entered common vernacular, she had to switch gears, and is now working towards opening a brick and mortar location.
“One of the most challenging parts is going against what others think I should do,” Marcelino shares. “For example, grits are low cost. When you are from a community that has historically been poor, you end up with main dishes like rice and grits. People say, ‘you should charge more!’ but that defeats the purpose.” Marcelino makes it clear that she’s in this to bring access to the food her community loves at a price that is fair.
Marcelino is proud to be a local. “I was born in the community and I’m still here, to be a representative of what you can be. You don’t have to leave. A lot of the people of color who could give back left. It’s important for kids to see someone that looks like them that stayed.”
The next time a Black family needs catering in Providence, they can rest assured that Marcelino will have their backs.
Black Beans PVD, 55 Cromwell St, PVD, black-beans-pvd.square.site