To kick-start my series, I thought I would begin with one of the most unique spots this city has to offer--and perhaps my favorite of all.
I'm sure many of you are familiar with Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, as their online store has been around a little while. I love walking into this little shop that sells all things vegan, from food products to cosmetics to cookbooks to clothing, and peruse the shelves without ever having to read a list of ingredients. Not to mention the owners, Ken and Leigh, are friendly and cool to chat with.
(Note: The above photos of the store belong to Leigh and I've used them with her permission!)
I asked Ken and Leigh a few questions about their vegan journey. Here's what they had to say:
1. How long have you guys been vegan?
Leigh: I went vegetarian in 1992, and attempted veganism once or twice after that. Finally after I met Ken (who was already vegan when we met), I stopped being lazy about it and went completely vegan. That was in 2001.
Ken: I went vegan in August 1997. I had been a vegetarian for about 3 years and always knew that I would go vegan. It was just a matter of time and the ability to give up cheese. Back then there weren't good cheese alternatives as there are today. Most were very chewy and did not melt at all. What finally moved me towards veganism was a cheese overload in NYC while on tour with my old band. I ate so much cheese pizza that I throw in the towel and became vegan from that point forward.
2. Tell me the story of what inspired you to go vegan.
Leigh: I went vegetarian when I was in high school, for animal rights reasons. I had an older friend who was vegetarian who saw me eating pepperoni once and said, "Do you know what that is?" And I gave the typical omni answer, "I don't want to know!". But his words stuck with me, and I couldn't get past what the meat I ate actually was. it was a slow process, but I eventually gave up all meat. It took me a while to learn that every time I consumed cow's milk, I was directly supporting the veal industry. Once that clicked, it was a no-brainer. And eggs...geez. A few disturbing images of factory farmed chickens made egg elimination easy.
Ken: Aside from my silly cheese overload story, my main reason for going vegan is animal rights. My main inspiration for going vegan was learning about the horrid testing done on animals. I also believe animals are not here for us to eat or to be exploited.
3. How long has Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe been around? What inspired you to open the store?
Ken: Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe started as an online store in March 2005. We eventually opened the retail store in June 2007 because we wanted to help the Atlanta Vegan community and also expand our business. When we were just an online business, we had many local customers ask about when we would open a store. So, we thought it would be a good idea. We love having the retail store. We've also gotten to meet some of our online customers; some who were passing through Atlanta and wanting to stop in.
Leigh: The inspiration basically came from wanting to do something that was important to us. Running a 100% vegan store meant that we could serve the vegan community, as well as better support companies that offer vegan products. It's also our attempt at making the concept of veganism more mainstream, or at least less foreign to people.
4. Favorite foods?
Leigh: Hmm. I love food, so it's hard to choose! I'm a southern girl, so I like a lot of southern food. Breakfast foods like grits, biscuits, tofu scramble, pancakes, etc. I also eat a ton of tomato sandwiches. That's my comfort food. I like stir frys, with various veggies like kale, zucchini, onions, carrots, and nuts. I really enjoy baking, so I eat way too many homemade cookies, cupcakes, pies and muffins.
Ken: I love breakfast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner! However, being Italian, I love pasta dishes: especially lasagna!
I'm also a big smoothie nut. I enjoy a smoothie almost every morning.
5. Favorite vegan retail products?
Leigh: Oh, wow. Pretty much everything we carry I love for one reason or another. I have fun seeking out new things to carry in the store. We are excited to be getting in the latest creation from Chicago Soydairy next week: Teese. It's this amazing vegan mozzarella that tastes authentic, and melts very well.
I also enjoy finding vegans who make cool things that we can offer, like the Recycled Lunch Kits from Becky Striepe of Glue & Glitter. She's a local (Atlanta) vegan who's super-talented. Other cool stuff we have made by vegans are cute bags by Sugar Blossom Boutique, awesome Pottery by Vegan Dish, and cute mini books by Books By Bexx.
Ken: Like leigh. I dig all the products in our store, however I do have some favorites such as the Vega Meal Replacement (their powder is great in smoothies), Dulce Vegan sweets (Idalys and Howell rock!), Temptation Ice Cream mix (awesome with an ice cream maker), Stonewall's Jerquee and Pure Bars.
6. Favorite cookbook?
Leigh: I have much love for my cookbook collection! The titles I'm using most often lately are Vive le Vegan, Yellow Rose Recipes, and the mighty Veganomicon.
7. Favorite veg-friendly spot in the ATL?
Leigh: I think Soul Vegetarian II is still the best dinner around. The country fried steak, BBQ cauliflower, collards and mac & cheese... How can you go wrong? We also love Harmony Vegetarian, Chinese Buddha, and the vegan options at Village Pizza.
Ken: I agree with Leigh. Soul V has been around for such a long time and they rarely disappoint! I really like their collards and country fried steak.
8. Do you have any news about the store, etc. that you'd like to share?
Leigh: Well, we are excited to be sponsoring and exhibiting at the Animal Rights Conference in Washington DC this August for the very first time. We are really looking forward to the conference. Anyone that is able to make it must come to our table and say hi!
Ken: We are excited about some new t-shirt designs we have available. We asked some of our vegan designer friends to come up with some cool designs and they did! We also printed our first Cosmo's shopping bag that is made from recycled cotton and soda bottles.
9. Feel free to add anything else of interest that I may have forgotten...
Leigh: Thank you for the interview! It's really great how the vegan community comes together in so many ways, such as vegan blogs like these. It's exciting, really. And thank you to everyone who has supported Cosmo's over the years, too. We love what we do, offering vegan goodies to the masses. :)
Ken: Thank you Laura!
There you have it! So, if you're ever in Atlanta, don't miss the chance to stop by and do some shopping, and meet a couple of awesome local vegans! Oh yes, and be sure to check out Leigh's blog too.