“I want to be healthy and, at the same time, I want to always feel like I’m cheating.”
Theresa Keane and Willow O’Brien began Pixie Retreat, a raw and plant-based food company, in Portland, Oregon in 2009. They had begun eating raw years before when a mutual friend (who actually introduced them) impressed them with her looks and vitality.
“The way that she looked blew my mind!” said O’Brien. “In two months, she was going to be 50 and she looked like she was about 30 and working out like a fiend.” When this friend revealed her new raw diet, both women were in. They transitioned to raw, plant-based eating and began to spread the word.
O’Brien and Keane started Pixie Retreat almost by accident. Their voices tumbled over each other as they related their tale. “We met this young woman who had brain cancer, so we started feeding her. Then it turned into feeding other private clients. The grocery stores started calling, and they wanted our product. I guess it was just word of mouth. So then we started a wholesale business,” said Keane.
“I like to cook, and Willow likes to eat. She likes to be the taste tester,” Keane enthused as she chatted about their roles in the company. While Keane is the chef and recipe maker, O’Brien manages the majority of their business matters. However, they both felt called to step out of the test kitchen and get more social.
“We moved into this amazing giant production kitchen with roll-up garage doors. It was brand new. And then we realized that we’re here seven days a week producing for two-day-a-week deliveries,” said Keane. “We should be open to the public! So we opened up our kitchen for takeout and expanded our menu.”
Pixie Retreat expanded to three retail locations quickly.
When the pandemic hit, Keane and O’Brien didn’t need to pivot hard. “What we were doing was what was required in that timeframe,” said O’Brien. “The only thing that we did was close down the locations’ indoor seating, so you could only get takeout. We had already set up all the delivery apps prior to COVID.”
That shift allowed them to return their focus to the wholesale side of the business. Pixie Retreat products can be found in Whole Foods and other large grocery stores on the West Coast, as well as online.
As O’Brien said, “Every single thing that we make, not only is it healthy, it’s actually yummy. The proof for us is when kids or men like your healthy food. Then you know you’ve hit the mark.”
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