Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Living the vegan life in Atlanta

When I tell people that I am a vegan, the question always comes around: "Where do you like to eat/shop/hang out in town?" Believe it or not, Atlanta actually has quite a few vegan-friendly offerings--you just have to know where to go. That's why I have decided to do a series of posts related to vegan living in my new home city. Hopefully I'll be able to come up with a variety of places to showcase, since being vegan is more than just a dietary choice--it really becomes a lifestyle.

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.



VeggieGirl said...

what a great post!!! I seriously had no idea that Atlanta WAS so vegan-friendly - that's wonderful!! By the way, I have that black Herbivore hoodie (the one all the way on the right, in the photograph, with the green cross) :0D

Ashley Nicole said...

EXCELLENT POST!!! Very well done!
I'm excited to hear that Cosmos will be exhibiting at the AR conference, because i'm going!
Reading this made me love living in Atlanta even more than I already do; what an awesome vegan community we have!

Glue&Glitter said...

Aw, what a great series idea and great first post!

Jodie said...

Very cool!

aTxVegn said...

Very interesting! I would think a city the size of Atlanta should have plenty to offer vegans. I'm glad you've been able to find some great places.

pleasantly plump vegan said...

great interview! i of course love Cosmo's. Ken and Leigh are awesome!
we feel so lucky to have a decent vegan community here in Atlanta.

Paulina said...

I love reading interviews like these :)

You're so lucky to live in Atlanta! My dad travels there often but I never get to go.

Jes said...

Aw, great interview with Leigh & Ken! I used to live next door to Cosmos (literally 2 doors down), and I was in there almost every day (can anyone say vegan ice cream??!!). If nothing else, I'm stoked to find out that I can get some Teese from them soon! I can't wait to read the rest of the Atl posts--we do have a lot of good options here!

Sam said...

That's so great! I wish I had a store like that close to me. It would make my life a heck of a lot easier! They sound like great people too, not the overcharging, money-hungry fiends like some people...

Wheeler's Frozen Dessert said...

I also love breakfast foods and smoothies! Looks like Ken and I could get along okay if I ever stopped by Atlanta.

springsandwells said...

Wow that's a great post!
I've been to Atlanta once, about 5 years ago (pre-my-blog), and I had NO IDEA there was a happy vegan scene. There's some chance we'll return again someday, and if we do - I'll look you up and we can go to Cosmo's. What fun!

bazu said...

Awesome interview, Laura! You make me long for another visit to Atlandta- I haven't been there since late 2001!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Loved the interview!! I didn't even know Leigh ran Cosmo's!! Looking forward to the everything else yocome up with for the vegan atlanta series :-)

*Coop* said...

I love love love Cosmos. I travel all the way from south of the airport to get there, but it's such a great store...and they're always so friendly!
Before I leave for a trip, I stop by and rack up on jerky, candy and cookies. Plane food sucks!

I'm assuming you've been to Sevananda and DeKalb Farmer's Market too. *sigh* I LOVE Atlanta!

Oh and R Thomas is great too. I'll keep reading to see if you've already mentioned this stuff. lol

Great blog!

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