April 1, 2011
Julia Guthrie, Contributing Writer
NW VEG regularly spotlights our Business Members; we hope you'll support them too! For a complete list, visit nwveg.org/businesses.php
Question: Where can you find Vega Sport Performance Protein sandwiched between Yummy Earth Organic Pops and best-selling cookbook, Appetite for Reduction? How about recent VegNews Best-of-Show winner, Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Calamari? And Sweet and Sara’s ever popular marshmallows and smores? And where on earth would you go if you were hunting down vegetarian haggis? The answer is simple: Food Fight!
Tucked between Herbivore Clothing Co. and Scapegoat Tattoo in the world famous “Vegan Mini Mall” on SE Stark, Food Fight! is Portland’s only, and one of a few in the country, 100 percent vegan grocery store. An unassuming storefront, most passers-by would probably mistake Food Fight! for a small neighborhood convenience store, but step through the doors and what you’ll find will delight and surprise you.
Delight? Yep. Food Fight! is the place to find all those delicious vegan treats they tantalize you with in VegNews: Eat Pastry’s yummy cookie dough; a number of treats from the afore-mentioned Sweet and Sara; Rescue chocolate bars; and a well-stocked ice cream section with all the dairy-free frozen favorites.
Surprise? And how. Their reputation, and the first impression, may have you thinking all they offer are tasty, indulgent treats, but you’d be wrong. Food Fight! also stocks staples for home and pantry. Whether you keep it simple with a PB&J or want to try your hand at one of the yummy recipes in the collection of cookbooks they sell, Food Fight’s got you covered. And that’s exactly what owners Chad Miller and Emiko Badillo had in mind when they opened it.
When Chad and Emiko moved to Portland from New York, they found themselves tired of running all around town to get their favorite items. One store for bread, another for bulk items, and still another for…you get the picture. Out of necessity an idea was born, and the couple maxed out the credit cards and took the chance that others shared their frustration and would appreciate a place where they could go to get all things vegan.
Fast forward a few years to Food Fight!’s newer, bigger digs on SE Stark and you’ll see some things have changed, but not a lot. What has changed? Well, they have twice as much space as they did at their original location on Division; they’ve added a fresh produce section as well as bulk items; and they’re always bringing in the newest vegan cult items ahead of the rest of the pack, like Tofurky pizza and Daiya cheese. What hasn’t changed? They’re still outspoken animal rights activists who put their values before all else; they’re still cheeky business owners; and they still have a great selection of vegan junk food.
And none of this should come as a surprise. Chad first went vegetarian during college, thanks to his exposure to the punk scene with pro-ALF bands like Conflict, Youth of Today, and MDC singing of animal abuse and all that was wrong with agribusiness. A trip to London a few years later convinced him to make a change to veganism when he “…went to a Pizza Hut and saw that only one cheese on the menu was veg-suitable.” That made him think about his values and make a commitment to really stick to them. Chad and Emiko went vegan in 1997 and haven’t looked back.
And lucky for us they didn’t just go vegan, they made it their business to inform others and provide vegans with a great one-stop veg emporium. Browsing the store I was impressed with the great selection of staple groceries that I never thought of Food Fight for: bulk soy curls and quinoa, fresh kale, Cellar Door coffee, Bubbie’s pickles and sauerkraut, Dave’s Killer Bread, even Dr. Bronner’s soap in bulk.
The store is nicely arranged with small, focused sections of Italian items, Thai and Indian, pantry staples like Eden beans, brown rice and cooking oils. They have the best veg cheese section in town with items from Daiya, Teese, and locally made Heidi Ho Organics. As a matter of fact, they have lots of local products, including grab and go items from Blossoming Lotus, Papa G’s tofu, OTA Tofu, Eva’s Herbucha, and Chez Gourmet veggie burgers. The list could go on.
In addition to all this yummy goodness, they have enviro-friendly cleaning supplies, vegan supplements, and a cute section of health and beauty products. In short, you can get just about everything you need, and know that it’s cruelty-free, at this little store. Actually, what struck me while I was there was how nice and relaxing it is to shop in a store where you don’t have to search for the products you can buy, read all the labels and do extra research. You can just see what you want, grab it, and you’re good to go.
And if all that isn’t enough, you can also feel good that you’re supporting a business that not only shares your values but actively supports organizations that protect animals. The day I was there they were busy getting ready for the weekend’s fundraiser for Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, in which 10 percent of all their sales for the weekend would be donated to the organization. And they’re doing things like that all the time. This month they’re looking for vegan bakers and volunteers to contribute to the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale on April 23 where all proceeds will be donated to local animal sanctuaries Out To Pasture, Lighthouse, and Ananda sanctuaries (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help out).
When I asked Chad what was in the future for Food Fight, he responded simply, “Hopefully, survival. That we’ll still be here, a strong business.” The move to SE Stark was an investment in expansion, one that occurred when things in the economy became challenging, and small businesses feel it the most. Chad said this is a time when people really need to "...support stores in line with their ethics. We're the only store in town not actively supporting animal cruelty, and we need the people in line with our values to support us." And that’s exactly what keeps our Portland veg community thriving—coming together to share our values and support those we share them with. And, hey, you can feel really good about eating that decadent vegan treat knowing it’s helping to support those that support animals. And if you like, you can always follow it up with a chaser of kale and quinoa.
Food Fight Grocery is located at 1217 SE Stark in Portland. You can reach them by phone at 503-233-3910 or check out their website at foodfightgrocery.com (it’s got an amazing amount of information including an extensive Vegan Guide to Portland).