Back to Ohio

Rock icon and animal-rights activist Chrissie Hynde returns to her native Akron Sept. 15 to cut the ribbon on a new vegetarian restaurant she and her business partners will soon open in the Rubber City. She recently gave us the d
Judging by lyrics alone, Akron isn’t where you’d expect Chrissie Hynde to open a business. After all, The Pretenders frontwoman proclaimed her “City Was Gone” in the 1984 song lamenting her hometown’s demise. But a lot can change in two decades. And, activist that she is, today Hynde says she feels “a bit ashamed” that she “wasn’t around to lie down in front of the bulldozers.” Now she’s contributing to Akron’s rebound with 
VegiTerranean, a vegetarian restaurant Hynde is opening with Dan Duplain, owner of Canton’s upscale Italian eatery 

How’d you get into the
restaurant business?
I’ve always wanted to play guitar in a band. That was my dream from the time I was 14. But I still have always seen the band as a vehicle to promote a vegetarian ethic. Ultimately, this restaurant would be my goal, more than even the band.

What made you decide on Akron?
I go back there, and I have nowhere to go to eat. I mean they have restaurants that have a vegetarian menu, but that’s not the same for a vegetarian. That doesn’t really count.

How did you end up in the Northside Lofts building?
My first priority was that I could walk there from the apartment that I keep in Akron. The worst thing that’s happened, not only to my hometown but to [American] cities in the last 25 years, is this obligation to get into a car to do anything. I can’t live that way. And I saw a billboard one day [for Northside Lofts] that said, “The Cure for Suburbia.” I thought, Well, that’s the coolest slogan I’ve heard, ever. I met with [the developers, Paul and Joel Testa] and I liked them. They liked the idea of the restaurant.

You’ve said things in the past that made it seem as if you’d work only with vegetarians. Yet the developers and your partners aren’t.

I would prefer to work with vegetarians because, philosophically, they could dig it, and I wouldn’t have to explain anything. But vegetarians are pretty thin on the ground. And the ones that you do find are probably more like me: They don’t have a business head. So I had to take a chance. I met guys that seemed really solid, honest, decent and good fun. I went to Dan’s restaurant, and the place was packed and jumping. I wanted a restaurant that people didn’t think of as a vegetarian restaurant, just as a cool place to hang out.

Have any concerns, based on the average restaurant’s prospects for survival?
Because I have absolutely no business sense, it really doesn’t concern me. I think: If I lose money, I lose money. But it seems that these other characters — Dan and Paul and Joel — really believe in it. And they are businessmen. So that kind of cheers me up.

Did you encounter any challenges in raising your two daughters as vegetarians?
When they were little, I would take them by a butcher store. I’d say, “See that? That used to be part of a lamb. People kill them, cut them up and eat them. In our family, we will never do that. So you will always be different from everyone else.” That was absolutely fine with them.

Ever tempted to eat meat?
If you feel the way I do about factory farming and animal slaughter — I put it on the same [level] as pedophilia — it’s not an option.

You’re turning 56 Sept. 7. How do you feel?
I still roughly weigh the same and look the same. Nothing’s changed with me much. But I’ve never been obsessed with weight, diet and all that. I just go along my way and get on with it.

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