Gabrielle Richards, 28, is a co- owner of the only total vegan grocery store in the region.
She owns The Vegan Grocery Store at 321 Oliver St., in North Tonawanda, with her husband Jason Richards and her mom, Judith Mittiga.
The store, open since March, was created for those who don’t eat meat in any form, don’t use products created from animals, like milk, honey or eggs, and don’t wear clothing made from animals, such as leather. The store has been attracting shoppers from all over the region and Gabrielle took a few minutes away from her busy day to explain why.
QUESTION: What in the world is a 28-year-old doing owning a vegan grocery store?
ANSWER: (Laughs) I was about 14 when I went vegan. Actually me and my sister went vegan together. You know there’s this big issue with vegans when you go grocery shopping because you have to go to Wegmans for some things, then Tops for some things and then even Walmart for a couple of things. Nobody has everything and even though you go to all of these stores, there’s still some brands that all of these stores don’t even bother to carry.
Q: What products do you carry that nobody else carries?
A: We carry these Amy’s pizza rolls that nobody else has … We carry some of the Gardein products that none of the other stores carry. We carry the turkey cutlets, the meatless meatloaf and the breakfast pockets. There’s a Twofer, which is a Twix bar, and a Thumbs Up bar, which is a vegan Butterfinger. We’re the only ones that carry those.
Q: Are vegans that dedicated that they don’t eat candy bars that have animal products?
A: Right. Those candy bars are made out of rice milk. Everyone assumes all vegan chocolate is dark chocolate but you can make milk chocolate out of rice milk.
Q: What made you go vegan?
A: Well, I was young so it was all about the animals. We had a dog and I fell in love with him and was my first animal and it just clicked in my head, that a cow is just a really really big version of this dog and why and I eating this hamburger that could essentially be made out of my dog? So my
my sister Lydia and I went vegan tosgether. And its been that way ever since.
Q: Is your mother a vegan?
A: Mom went vegan several years ago. I would say the only reason we even survived as vegans back in the day, because there wasn’t anything like this, was because my parents were so supportive. You need a strong supportive group around you and my mom and dad were really that strong supportive group.
Q: And your husband. Did he think you were crazy in the beginning?
A: Jason? So Yes. People usually think we’re absolutely crazy when they find out that we’re vegan. Jason was always so great though It never even mattered to him. He would always go wherever I needed to go to get my vegan products. He never even thought twice about it. We would go somewhere to eat and I would get this delicious vegetable plate, he used to always say, ‘man I wish I could eat like you eat.’ And now today, he eats a vegan diet.
Q: How is the store doing? Are you making it?
A: We’re definitely making it. We actually bought the property. This store front hadn’t been used in over 55 years. It was a complete gut job all the way down to the studs. Built it back up and put brought it back to life and put a big grocery store inside of it.
Q: Are you planning on expanding?
A: Right now we have a three year plan to open a second location and were thinking if it goes how we want it to, then we’re thinking the Southtowns. We get a lot of Southtowns customers who come out once a month and I know they would be steadier customers.
Q: Are there enough vegans in NT to support the store?
A: That’s another thing that people say but we are actually the closest vegan option for example, to Niagara Falls, Lewiston and Lockport. There is a Wegmans out there, across the street from the Outlet Mall, but it doesn’t have a really great vegan selection. So we get a lot of those vegans. Obviously people from Buffalo come to support us and we actually get a lot of Canadians. Lots of Canadians. They bring their coolers down and they stock up on a lot of things they can’t get back in Canada.
Q: That’s crazy.
A: It is crazy.
For more information, call The Vegan Grocery at 260-2906 or visit online at