Less than six months ago, Matthew Matchin was working on opening a vegan ice cream shop in Charlotte, NC when he received a call from a high school friend in Pennsylvania.
“Hey I’m driving down to St. Pete to visit Matt! I’ll be passing right through Charlotte. Do you want to come hang out with us for a few days?”
Always down for a new adventure, Matchin agreed. Ten days after returning home to Charlotte, he bought a one-way ticket back to St. Pete. “I absolutely love this city,” says Matchin. “When I visited, I realized how active the vegan community is here. And I also noticed there were no vegan ice cream shops. Not to mention the weather — it’s warm year-round and perfect for ice cream.”
What Matchin witnessed was one of Florida’s fastest growing vegan communities. As St. Pete experiences a new wave of vegan eateries, residents are realizing that vegan food isn’t just a boring salad. Over the past year alone, downtown has seen the introduction of Ray’s Vegan Soul, Rawk Star Cafe, and Valhalla Bakery. These new vegan outposts join long-standing favorites such as Leafy Greens Cafe, Love Food Central, MEZE 119, Community Cafe, and Cider Press Cafe.
Additionally, many non-vegan eateries have started to add vegan items to their menus, providing further validation that veganism has become mainstream in St. Pete. Even the newly opened Dr. BBQ has over 20 vegan offerings.
As soon as Matchin moved to St. Pete, everything started to fall into place. His high school friend, Matt Kurtyka, decided to partner with him and they quickly found an available storefront at 953 Central Avenue, formerly a women’s boutique named Necessories.
Now, after months of permitting and buildout, Plant+Love Ice Cream is days away from debuting in one of Downtown St Petersburg’s hottest neighborhoods — The EDGE District. The area is on its way to becoming the city’s most walkable urban neighborhood, perhaps even eclipsing the downtown core in a few years.
Recently, the EDGE District has seen the completion of a 218-unit apartment community and substantial progress on another 368-unit apartment tower. A handful of new businesses have opened their doors including a wellness bar, a bakery, a Mediterranean eatery, a weekly night market and a BBQ restaurant. And there’s more in the pipeline, such as a boutique hotel, a vintage Florida-themed bar, and a german cafe.
All of the recipes at Plant+Love have been developed by Matthew Matchin and his mother, JoAnn Matchin. “We make everything ourselves. It’s so much fun to create new flavors — it’s alchemy!” Together they’ve come up with over 50 flavors.
Ten flavors will be offered daily — served in a cup or house-made vegan waffle cone. The following classics will always be available:
Queen Vanilla Bean
Orange Dream made with real Florida oranges
Mystic Mint Fudge Brownie
Salted Caramel Praline Pecan
Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble featuring Valhalla Bakery’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Seasonal flavors will be on the menu as well. “I want to be able to use seasonal fruit when springtime comes around and have peppermint bark or a chai latte flavor during the winter,” says Matchin. “Right now I’m working on an eggless nog flavor.”
Matchin also wants to provide one or two wellness flavors, such as an adaptogenic blend that includes mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lions mane. Adaptogens are commonly used in ayurvedic healing, a form of eastern medicine, that help the body resist stressors of all kinds — physical, chemical or biological.
Sugar-free ice cream and scoops infused with CBD will also be available.
Top it off with the house-made caramel and fudge sauces, vegan whipped cream, vegan sprinkles, crumbled up cookies, and much more.
In an effort to bring the local vegan community together, Matchin plans on collaborating with other local businesses, starting with Valhalla Bakery. Ice cream sandwiches featuring Valhalla’s famous chocolate chunk cookies will be one of the menu items not to be missed.
Plant+Love will also offer milkshakes, coconut cold brew coffee, kombucha floats, and shots of espresso poured over any flavor ice cream, called an affogato.
From the very beginning, Matchin wants to make a positive impact on the world. Plant+Love is a very proud supporter of the No Straws St. Pete initiative. Single use plastics wont be an option at the creamery. “Our cups, spoons and straws will come from bamboo, wood or a compostable plastic alternative,” says Matchin. “I would never sacrifice that no matter how much more money it costs. We don’t want to create waste here.”
Even the name of the creamery, Plant+Love Ice Cream, has a special meaning. “Of course Plant+Love makes sense being a vegan ice cream shop, but it’s also about planting seeds of love with positive intention, positive affirmation, and learning to love yourself,” says Matchin. “That’s an integral part of what we’re doing and what we want people to feel when they come to us.”
The idea to open a vegan creamery came from Matchin’s time living in Hawaii. “I got really inspired by all of the plant-based ice cream there,” he says. “There were no traditional ice cream shops, it was all vegan.”
For Matchin, owning a business has been a lifelong dream, and he recognizes that Plant-Love Ice Cream wouldn’t be possible without the support of two other partners — high school friend, Matt Kurtyka, and his mother, JoAnn Matchin.
“Matt is an absolutely phenomenal artist. He’s painted a mural inside the store and he’s done all of our website design. I’m going to eventually teach him how to make ice cream,” laughs Matchin. Kurtyka will also manage the artwork inside Plant+Love. In addition to covering the walls with local art, there will be a rotating selection of handmade jewelry, stickers, and t-shirts for sale. Plant+Love will also host periodic open mic / jam nights.
As with her son, the creamery will be JoAnn Matchin’s lifeblood too. She recently took a severance package and retired early after her employer decided to suddenly shut down their Charlotte office. After some persuasion from her son, she decided to go all-in on Plant+Love. JoAnn Matchin will provide financial support, help make the ice cream and develop new recipes.
Be sure to visit Plant+Love Ice Cream when they open to the public in a few days at 953 Central Avenue. Their hours are 11am to 11pm Tuesday through Thursday and 11am to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.