What the New Vegan Convenience Store Says About South Philly
Is there room for a meat-free grab-and-go in a neighborhood known for its love of cheesesteaks?
Like ad hoc microbiologists, food-shopping vegans must squint carefully at labels: Which seemingly plant-based product will contain egg whites or gelatin today? If only there were a place where all the goods are animal-free.
Well, you guessed it: At the new, offbeat mom-and-pop V Marks the Shop in South Philly, at 1515 McKean Street, every item — from cow-free half-and-half to meatless jerky — is 100 percent vegan-approved. This is a game changer.
Sure, national brands are here, but what’s most promising is the local flavor: “Korean Beef” wraps from Tattooed Mom nestle against jars of Alice Leung’s Soy Cafe Dip. Just below the Blackbird (as in Pizzeria) seitan, you may find Miss Rachel’s Pantry Cashew Pub Cheese.
For this sort of spread, we vegans will travel, but daily customers will be key. Can South Philly — known for its love of cheesesteaks — support an all-vegan convenience store?
Timothy Lidiak, president of the Newbold Community Development Corporation, says it’s “the right business at the right time” — one that will appeal to young home buyers, vegan and otherwise. It also does Philly proud: Such brick-and-mortar groceries are hot in Europe but catching on more slowly in the U.S.; NYC and L.A. have them, Chicago and Dallas don’t.
Married co-owners Carlo Giardina and Carmella Lanni, New York transplants, organized vegan pop-ups before taking the plunge. Lanni touts the neighborhood: “It’s close to Rachel’s, it’s close to the Tasty.” In fact, the shop may bring the area to critical mass as a vegan “hub.”
Beyond squint-free labels, Philly vegans are getting a store (with seating and wi-fi) that connects entrepreneurs, chefs and consumers, and that’s no small potatoes. It’s why Leung chose this spot to sell her Soy Cafe line: “It aligns with my whole being.”
Published as “Convenience With a Capital V” in the April 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.