You’re just getting home from the grocery store, excited to dive into a promising new snack you bought, when something you didn’t notice before on the side of the box catches your eye. CONTAINS MILK. Damn.
Haha, man we’ve all been there, now haven’t we? What’s that? No? Have no idea what I’m talking about?
Well this is the plight of the vegan grocery shopper; constantly having to flip over every box, bag and can to scan for any numerous off-limits animal by-products. That is, until now.
Viva la Vegan is the first all-vegan grocery store in California and, after it’s grand re-opening weekend June 30 and July 1, will be the largest in the whole wold.
Located off Baseline Road and Roberds Street in an old citrus packing plant, Viva la Vegan has been in business since Nov. 2010, but is celebrating over a year’s worth of improvements, expansions and additions with a grand re-opening.
With thousands of items ranging from soy milk and tofu, to BBQ chicken pizza and chocolate cheesecake, the sheer size of their inventory is enough to impress even the most skeptical of eaters.
The team at VLV says they’ve been working tirelessly to prepare for opening weekend in order to encourage the people of the Inland Empire to start looking at vegan food in a different light.
Along with an HD LCD TV giveaway, food vendors will be present to hold demonstrations and samplings of different items that can be bought in-store—an opportunity VLV hopes both vegans and non-vegans will take up to try new things, or find alternatives for old products.
While the team is rightfully proud of their largest-vegan-grocery-store-on-Earth inventory (some of which can’t even be found on the entire west coast), they want people to know that Viva la Vegan is much more than just a place to fill up your grocery bags.
In addition to a locally sourced fresh produce section, bulk bins carrying everything from nooch to snack mix and an expansive refrigerated and freezer section, the revamped store boasts a juice bar, an apparel section with huge amounts of shoes, shirts, bags, purses, wallets and hats, a large health and beauty selection, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, pet food and merchandise, cookbooks and educational material, countless ways to donate to charities and organizations, weekly live radio broadcasts with Bob Linden of Go Vegan Radio and a free community space used for potlucks, yoga, presentations, meetings etc.
Viva la Vegan has also become a haven for people with food allergies, gluten intolerances, and for those who simply are looking to eat better.
“We get a good number of people that are coming in trying to correct their health,” said co-owner Arlo Toews. “Sometimes you’ll see a little old lady dragging a little old man in, and the lady’s a little more open to it and a lot of the time the guy’s looking around like ‘Oh my god, I hope nobody sees me in here.’ And then he’s a little bit surprised by the variety and options that are here.”
This unexpected versatility, especially coming from such a niche market provider, along with it’s originality, dedication to customers, and steadfast commitment to doing good things for good reasons (the staff of only four runs the store every day of the week, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. without pay) is the reason this very specialized market has survived in such an unexpected region.
“Viva la Vegan is an idea. It’s a practical application of a moral, ethical, social idea that a vegan diet and lifestyle is the most profound thing you can do, as far as an impact on the environment. the treatment of animals, and to your health,” said co-owner Isaak Iftikhar. “It’s the most profound dietary change you can make in order to positively impact those three things. And it’s a grocery store.”