By Rickie Harvey
As published in The West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, January 20, 2011
“Established in 02132” is printed under the restaurant’s name on the front door, and at the Rox Diner, owners John Fortin and Paul Louderback take this pledge seriously, with “local, local, and more local” as their mantra. In this case, “local” also means sustainable, recyclable, all-natural, and just generally green.
For starters, when West Roxbury residents Fortin and Louderback took over ownership of what was then named Auntie B’s in 2004, they immediately went local with their bread, buying from Fornax in Roslindale. Now they also get muffins from Sugar, across the street; shop at Allandale Farm and local farmers’ markets when weather permits; purchase their eggs from New Hampshire; and use West Roxbury’s Hercules Press for printing. In general, the Rox Diner tries to keep its business as close to their location at 1881 Centre Street as possible. As Fortin says, “Outside of the obvious benefirts such as freshness and quality, I believe that creating a local network generates a goodwill factor and exhibits responsible communal and environmental practices.”
So how about those “green” eggs? They come to the Rox from Nellie’s Nest, a farm in Monroe, New Hampshire, whose hens eat an all-natural grain diet with no animal by-products. The birds live in cage-free barns and are certified “humane raised and handled.” Cage-free eggs, as they are termed, can cost up to three times the price of regular eggs, but “we always try to look at the actual cost and its relation to the value it brings to our customers,” Fortin explains, “so we were thrilled to find [Nellie’s Nest] and are proud to be doing business with them.”
And the “green” hamburgers the Rox has begun serving on Thursday nights? One option is the veggie burger (you can’t get any greener than that), which Louderback makes by hand out of black beans and sweet potatoes. The other choice is a burger made from Meyer Natural Angus beef, an all-natural meat from cattle that are raised humanely “with the highest regard for each animal and the highest standards in the industry,” according to the producer’s Web site. Fortin reports that Meyer Angus is the only major beef company that is certified humane, and “their all-nautral diet never includes anything like hormones or processed products, and it really contributes to a great flavor profile.”
The owners of the Rox also operate with sustainable business practices that contribute to a healthier planet and reflect responsible environmental ethics. One example is that they recycle their cooking oil with a local company that converts it into biofuel and then donates part of the profits from its sale to local education. They are also finalizing a deal with the company Save That Stuff to handle their recycling so they reduce their waste and are hoping to be able to also incorporate a composting element into their recycling practices.
Fortin and Louderback have received very positive feedback from grateful customers, and while this pleases them very much, it is Fortin’s opinion that “we consider all of this just part of doing our job, and we’ll always try to find ways to improve.” In that vein, look for a new page coming up on the Rox’s Web site that will inform customers how the diner operates sustainably, how they interact with the community, and also provide a forum for suggestions, input, and advice.
It is heartening to have such an example of a forward-thinking business in the heart of Centre Street. As owner Johnny Fortin succinctly sums it up, “When sustainability hits deliciousness—everyone’s a winner!”