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North Tonawanda gets a vegan grocery store, expands allergen-free options

Consumers in the Lumber City have a new food option: the Vegan Grocery Store at 321 Oliver St.

It might seem odd that a small, specialty grocery market would open when the grocery wars are reaching a fever pitch; especially after natural and organics behemoth Whole Foods has entered the local market. But such hyper-specialized brick-and-mortar retailers are thriving, even as major retail chains are flaming out.

Resident vegans Jason and Gabbie Richards and Judy Mittiga had always wanted a place to shop where they could take any item off the shelf and know it would suit their diet, without having to search through sprawling stores and read every label.

For the past several years, they'd had to cobble together their grocery lists from several stores, because no single retailer had a vegan selection comprehensive enough to meet all of their needs and wants. Whole Foods was a blessing and a curse. It brought additional vegan options, but also seemingly endless non-vegan options to weed through in order to find them.

"It's overwhelming. It's like, 'Where is my product?'" said Jason Richards. "We wanted one uniform place for all of our groceries."

Vegan customers have driven in from Buffalo and Niagara Falls to shop the Vegan Grocery Store since it opened two weeks ago, catching wind of the new option through vegan social media circles and by word of mouth. Some customers said they've driven as far as Rochester looking for products they can now find at the new shop, and the owners are always asking for suggestions for new product orders.

The store carries products that are free from peanut and other food allergens. The store is bringing in additional vegan foods that are free of the top eight food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

"It's something we didn't really think about. We're seeing there's a demand for that so we're trying to accommodate for that too," Richards said.

 

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