I want to announce that I am writing this article with one hand. Why? Because I am eating a cookie dough cupcake with the other one. I wanted to put the cupcake down, but I can’t. So… what’s so special about this fresh, soft, sugary, and chocolatey cupcake? Reid and Sheila Nelson, co-owners of Vegan East Bakery, mixed cookie dough into the frosting. Pure genius. You know what else is special about it? It’s in the name of their bakery – it’s vegan. You read that right. Reid and Sheila’s Vegan East Bakery on 34th Avenue has no animal products in their shop at all. This means no eggs, cream, butter or milk. As a non-vegan, I was pretty skeptical, but unless somebody told me otherwise, I would have had no idea that the cupcake in my hand has no eggs, no butter, and no cream.
“People think vegan food is gross. They’ll come into the store and say they’ve never eaten vegan food before. And I’ll jokingly say, ‘You’ve never eaten an apple?’” Reid has a great point. Many vegan vs. nonvegan foods are about marketing. “I’m not missing anything [being vegan]," Reid said. “It’s pretty easy for me to sit here and lecture people when I have one of the best vegan chefs in the state,” he laughed.
This small husband and wife-owned shop is the second shop they own. Their first shop, Vegan East Café (2409 Lyndale Ave. S.), sells vegan sandwiches, baked goods, and drinks. Their new shop, Vegan East Bakery, exclusively sells baked goods. “This is going to sound cliché, but give us a shot. You’ll be blown away. We’ve been in business for six years. If it wasn’t good, we’d be gone a long time ago," Reid said. He has a point.
I asked what made them decide to open their new shop in our neighborhood. In 2016, Sheila said she “needed a house hobby," so she “dabbled” in baking by teaching herself the art through Pinterest, YouTube, and blogs. She started baking vegan before Reid and Sheila went vegan. “That makes sense now, because she always loves a challenge," Reid said. Sheila piped in: “It was a persistent calling [to bake vegan]… a lot of trial and error. A lot of ingredients and a lot of money.” Sheila was a home baker for a little over a year when started selling out of her house in fall 2016. Reid was looking at festivals to get the product out. Their first big break was Veg Fest, where they sold out of cupcakes two days in a row. They started going to pop-up venues to sell cupcakes and sold directly out of their home.
With Sheila baking and Reid taking care of business, this power couple starts baking eight flavors of cupcake and pre-ordered cakes early in the day to ensure every baked good is fresh. Because their bakery contains no animal products, there is no worry about cross-contamination. This means they are able to serve people with allergies. Reid spoke about one customer who had an epi pen in her sock. “For some people this is life and death,” Reid said. It’s important for Reid and Sheila to be able to serve everyone, no matter what their needs are. Sheila is even experimenting with soy-free vegan options to add to her vegan and gluten free options.
When I asked them about their plans for the future, they told me how excited they are to be a part of our neighborhood and how they feel like 34th Street is up and coming. In the future, they want to add solar panels and a patio to their bakery. “Give us a chance. I dare you try it. I dare you to eat a cupcake and look me in the eye and tell me it’s not delicious,” Reid said.
As I am eating the last crumbs of my cupcake, I want to double-dare you to do the same.
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