It’s been a sad month for Melbourne vegans. On 4 December, Anikee Mallis, the owner of the Radical Grocery Store, announced that her much-loved shop would be closing on Christmas Eve.
The Radical Grocery Store is (was) located in Wilson Avenue, Brunswick – a side street just off Sydney Road. We only discovered the store early in 2013, and I clearly remember the excitement of walking in on our first visit and seeing such a huge range of products – ALL VEGAN! No label reading really required.
So much choice!
We felt like Violet Beauregarde and Veruca Salt entering the Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (that’s the original one from my childhood), all wide-eyed and speechless.
H and I skipped from one shelf/fridge to the next, shrieking and squealing as quietly as we could… “Oh my GOD! Notzarella!” “Oh my GOD! Spoons sausages!” “Oh my GOD! Vegan marshmallow mix!” “Oh my GOD! A huge range of Tofutti ice creams!” “Oh my GOD! Soy condensed milk…soy cream…big bags of nutritional yeast…Mister Nice Guy cupcakes…” (You get the idea.) I can only imagine how annoying it must have been for the staff there. Well, at least we bought lots.
You’d think we would have got used to it, but each time we visited the stock was slightly different, so there were always some new products to set us off again. Every visit was a real treat – literally – we could never resist buying a cupcake or brownie for later.
Closing down is actually a great achievement
I was so sad to hear that the shop was closing. It must have been an enormous job to run the shop for the last 5 years or so. Hopefully Anikee will be able to have a well-earned rest before she starts another adventure.
I kicked myself at first, because I knew that over the last year, as some of the specialty products became more widely available, I had made fewer trips to the Radical – probably every 2 or 3 weeks, instead of every week. I was trying to support mainstream, local businesses that had started stocking vegan foods, but sadly, the Radical would have been paying the price if there were many of us doing the same.
Then it occurred to me that this has really been the greatest success of Anikee and her wonderful shop. They played a huge role in getting vegan products out there, so that products that had been virtually impossible to find are now becoming familiar, and they’re popping up in supermarkets and food stores all over the place.
While we’ll no longer have the luxury of our own dedicated vegan shop, perhaps we can look at this as something positive. If there are lots of other organic wholefoods-type shops and mainstream supermarkets stocking vegan foods, that means that they’re aware of a growing demand, and the products are out there where everyone can see them and become familiar with them, and maybe…even, try them.
Looking at the big picture, in the long term, this really has to be what we’re aiming for. Change is happening really quickly, and getting vegan products into the mainstream is a huge step forward in the quest to save our environment and the lives of animals. Well done, Anikee!