In November, when nouveau-vegetarian restaurant Nutshell closed its doors for good, Portland, Oregon, lost a bit of its vegan cool. Filling the gap left in the vegan scene, however, is the city’s über-awesome vegan mini mall. While the economic downturn has affected business at the City of Roses’ meat-free oasis, Herbivore Clothing Company, Food Fight Grocery, Scapegoat Tattoo, and Sweet Pea Baking Company are keeping the dream alive, welcoming locals and out-of-towners alike who want to support vegan-owned businesses, and get a tattoo with their cupcake. Earlier this year, we spoke with Portland’s hippest entrepreneurs about what it’s like to be retail renegades.
VegNews: Your new space is huge! What does that mean for shoppers?
Josh Hooten, Herbivore: We’re going to carry all the usual goods: clothing, magazines, and books, and we’ll also have a huge selection of vegan cookbooks, and AR books, as well as belts, wallets, bags, zines, patches, art, buttons, stickers, aprons, and other stuff we haven’t figured out yet. Our space is plenty big now so we can add new stock frequently!
VN: You all had successful stand-alone vegan businesses before. What sparked the inspiration for this project?
Lisa Higgins, Sweet Pea Baking Company: Probably Chad’s over-active imagination originally. We had all been talking about moving our businesses together for the last year or so. My bakery finally got to the point where I had to have my own retail space and kitchen, and the timing just worked out for everyone.
Chad Miller, Food Fight Grocery: We were all friends and had always thought it would be nice to hang out next door to each other all day.
Brian Wilson, Scapegoat Tattoo: And, I know that Chad and I were kind of unhappy in our existing location. We were down in a hole, you could only see us from one direction, and just a little past the “cool” part of Portland. And then one day, it stuck. Then BOOM! We’re looking at a building. Then, Oh dang! We have a building!
CM: Plus, the idea of an AR community center seemed necessary and like it could provide a nice example to the rest of the country as to what is possible to do in other communities.
VN: Why do you think Portland is the perfect place for a retail experiment like this?
CM: I think it’s pretty affordable, supportive of small businesses, and there are butt-loads of vegans and people who give a crap.
BW: And it has a young mindset. When I opened my shop next to Food Fight, it was because I wanted to be a part of a community, not just another tattoo shop, and not just another vegan business. It was kind of a statement. Like, hey, even our tattoos are vegan. Portland’s vegan scene is unrivaled.
VN: What kind of response have you been getting from customers?
JH: People are very excited. People are really happy we’re more centrally located and have more space, you can come in and wander around, hang out, sit down and relax for a while. There’s a lot more to look at!
BW: Our customers are very excited for us, too. It’s a little different for Scapegoat because not all of our customers are vegan, but we’ve had a good amount of converts in our two years just from people asking us questions when they’re getting tattooed. And now they can get some post-tattoo vegan comfort food right next door to help to show that we’re not missing out on anything!
Visit the world’s first vegan mini-mall at 12th and Stark, in SE Portland.