Do you ever find yourself perusing the online offerings of one of your favorite online vegan retailers and wishing for your own local vegan grocery store, where you could walk the aisles and shop at your leisure? With their online vegan store that provides free delivery to local pickup spots, Rabbit Food Grocery is well on the way to turning that dream into a reality. (Especially with their record day of sales at Texas Veg Fest!) We are lucky to have so many vegan-friendly grocery stores in town. But a 100% vegan, brick-and-mortar grocery store, owned and operated by vegans, would provide our community with the opportunity to sample the many diverse products that we currently only drool over in the back pages of Veg News Magazine. Such a store would allow us to keep our dollars in the vegan community, supporting cruelty free living at every step. And just imagine the benefits to the animals of providing a tactile browsing environment to the vegan-curious.
Jessica Morris and Gabriel Figueroa officially opened Rabbit Food Grocery for business on January 16. Currently, the majority of their sales come from the local pickup orders. They partner with vegan-friendly eateries who host their pickups and benefit from the increased traffic. Rabbit Food customers can look forward to grabbing a meal at Conscious Cravings, or the soon to be reopened Counter Culture. If you pick up your order, only to realize that you forgot to order a chocolate-covered dillo, never fear: the genius Pop-Up Shop comes to the rescue. You can look forward to browsing the Pop-Up Shop when you pick up your order; it’s a unique opportunity to get a closeup look at new or unfamiliar products. A word to the wise: they can only bring a small sample to the Pop-Up Shops, so be proactive and place your order online beforehand. You don’t want to miss out on Sheese or Match Meat!
After reading a PETA pamphlet, Jessica (a high school-aged theatre arts kid at the time) decided to go vegetarian. She later went vegan while attending college at the University of North Texas (home of the famous vegan dining hall). She worked for several natural food grocers over the years, and quickly tired of handling meat products with their repugnant accompanying juices. Jessica pined for an all-vegan grocery store, where conscious consumers didn’t have to worry about checking ingredients and could easily access the many products that vegan entrepreneurs produce from all over the world. The influence of Food Fight Grocery and the now closed Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe really set the plan for Rabbit Food Grocery in motion. After living in New York city for a while, she decided to move to Austin, the place she calls the “vegan Mecca of Texas”, to begin work on her vegan grocery store in earnest.
Gabriel has always had a penchant for fact finding. Since childhood he has maintained an interest in mail-order businesses and the niche communities they serve. He dreamed of opening his own mail-order business and sending goods off to eager customers like Santa Claus. Years later, Gabriel is a committed long-term vegan, and serves the community as the go-to guy for answering questions about all things vegan. Jessica’s vision for Rabbit Food Grocery inspired him and provided an outlet for finally starting up that mail-order business, 21st century style, via the Internet. Once they joined forces, it was decided that he would head up the online mail-order aspect of the business. Gabriel has lived in Austin for many years and brings his own wealth of experience in the grocery business to the table. These two are well-suited partners in business and in life. With them at the helm, Rabbit Food Grocery will quickly become a vegan Austin landmark.
They originally planned to open a brick-and-mortar store in January of this year, but after some time they decided to start on a smaller scale, to “grow organically,” as Gabe says. The reality of so many struggling small businesses requires Jessica and Gabriel to be pragmatic, to learn to crawl before they walk. In their present state, they don’t have to deal with consumptive expenses, such as loans or employee healthcare. After starting out so minimally, they now have the benefits of zero overhead and the flexibility to keep their current jobs. This way the business can grow at its own pace; there’s no pressure to make rent. Their setup allows them to invest more money in fulfilling customer requests. Every dollar they earn goes back into the business to help expand their product offerings.
Anyone who visits their Pop-Up Shops regularly has enjoyed their widening selection. In just a few short months they have added Heidi Ho Organics, Food for Lovers queso, Celeste’s Best Cookie Dough, Vitashine Vegan Vitamin D3, Evolution brand pet food, Crazy Rumors lip balm, Bee Free Honee, Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese and on and on. Those are just some of the products they’ve added since they began Phase One of their grand plan. (Look forward to purchasing fresh treats from Capital City Bakery at forthcoming Pop-Up Shops!)
Phase One entails the local orders picked up at the Pop-Up Shops. Next, they plan to build on the success of the local aspect of the business for Phase Two: expansion of the mail-order aspect to reach more vegans around the country. They actually began receiving out-of-town orders for top sellers like Food for Lovers queso early on, but very soon they’ll begin shipping refrigerated items as well. Phase Three relies on the success of Phases One and Two. If the local pickup orders and the online mail orders continue to do well, then Austin vegans can look forward to a real live vegan grocery store! A Rabbit Food Grocery storefront will feature: a bulk section; local, organic, and veganic produce; more vitamins; more body care products; more basic staples like soymilk and tofu; and (drum roll) vegan beer and wine! Jessica reminds us not to forget Phase Four: “world domination”. Ha! Just kidding…
We should show our support for Rabbit Food Grocery during these early stages to ensure a smooth and speedy transition into a brick-and-mortar store. Shopping at local vegan businesses is good for our economy and good for animals everywhere. Gabriel is a pretty eloquent guy, so I will close with some thoughtful words from him:
Jessica always says that this is her form of activism, and it’s true. This is our way of sharing veganism with the world, showing people that there are many options available that don’t exploit animals. There is such an abundance, and people have no idea, because they’ve never seen it all laid out together. When we have the storefront, people will be in awe of how much there is available, and the question of what one eats as a vegan will cease to be an issue.
If you haven’t placed an order for pickup at one of their Pop-Up Shops yet, please do so soon. These two are highly knowledgeable and love to chat, so ask them any questions you have. You can tweet any questions as well. They get back to you very quickly. Let us know in the comments what you most want to see in an all vegan grocery store!