America’s Fittest Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, recently made news when he asked the people of Chicago to get healthier by adopting a vegan diet. This caused some talk, as here in the Midwest, we like our meat.
Could going vegan - a completely plant based diet that eliminates all animal by-products, including diary, eggs and honey - help get Michigan off the most obese state list? More than a million Americans lead a vegan lifestyle and some 22 million follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. But in this town of steak and mashed potatoes, what’s an herbivore to do? The Ticker caught up with two local businesses promoting this healthy lifestyle.
Om Café opened in Traverse City last July and, though its TC location is new, the business has a quarter century of experience under its belt.
“My mom started the original café in Ferndale 25 years ago,” says owner Jason Thibodeau. “At the time, there was nobody else doing this in the Midwest. She was really a pioneer. Today, people are so aware of what they are putting into their bodies. They want food with no growth hormones and no additives.”
Thibodeau and partner Ryan MacManus completely renovated the former Loading Dock building. “The timing was right in Traverse City. It’s such a progressive, active community. We gauge our success on seeing our customers return multiple times – often in the same week. Our vegan menu options are amazing – even people who eat meat love them.”
Many plans are in the works as Om Café prepares to celebrate its first full year in business, including pursuing a brew pub license and creating a quinoa and a dandelion beer.
“This summer we’re hoping to utilize the outdoor space more,” says Thibodeau. “We’ll do the Local Fest again, would like to do some beer and wine tastings, more local music, maybe even a farmers’ market.”
Oryana Natural Foods Market is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Since the co-op opened in 1973, it has been a main source for vegan and vegetarian staples in Traverse City.
“The store certainly has grown by leaps and bounds,” says Sandi McArthur, education and outreach coordinator. “Back when it started, the focus was on ‘back to the land,’ whole foods and real food. That hasn’t changed, but we’ve seen a lot of growth in the population choosing vegetarian and vegan diets.”
Oryana’s offerings of these foods have risen exponentially as well. Vegan products are sold in every part of the store; of the 17 grab-and-go salads available in its Lake Street Café on a recent visit, 13 were vegetarian or vegan.
“We want people to think about how this diet will work for them,” says McArthur. “Many start with a vegetarian diet and then decide if they want to go all the way to vegan. You have to be very thoughtful in the choices you pick to be sure you get all your nutritional needs…think about your cooking - get into the kitchen and consider how you will make foods that have a lot of vegetables, legumes and whole grains.”
This summer, Oryana is throwing a party on June 8th for members; sales and store events are planned throughout the year.
“This is a generational, family store,” says McArthur. “Years ago parents brought in their children and now those children are bringing in their kids.”
Love your steak? Watch for a Ticker next week all about local trends for a local meat-eater.