GEN­TLE AD­VO­CACY

Cou­ple aim to give back by launch­ing a one-stop shop for ve­gan food,

Toronto Star - - GTA & BUSINESS - DIANE PETERS

Eat­ing a ve­gan diet can raise eye­brows and even trig­ger anger.

“We don’t do it to up­set peo­ple,” ex­plains Mercedes Featherby, co-owner of Good Rebel, a new ve­gan gro­cery store on Dun­das St. W. near Brock Ave. “It’s a good re­bel­lion.”

She and part­ner Mohsen Ak­bar­ali con­sider their eat­ing habits and their new busi­ness an act of gen­tle ad­vo­cacy. They’re not ac­tivists, but they care about an­i­mals. They be­lieve that ev­ery time some­one eats a veg­gie burger or raids the store’s faux cheese fridge, it makes a small con­tri­bu­tion to an­i­mal welfare.

The cou­ple, who got to­gether about a decade ago, had each worked in re­spectable and nicely pay­ing ca­reers. Featherby had a job in gov­ern­ment while Ak­bar­ali worked at the Air Canada Cen­tre.

They lived fru­gally, saved a lot and trav­elled a lit­tle. But work, in the end, was not overly sat­is­fy­ing. “Is this what we re­ally want to do?” Featherby re­calls them ask­ing each other.

The long­time veg­e­tar­i­ans went ve­gan a few years ago and felt like they were do­ing their part in their own lives, but wanted to give back a bit more. They pon­dered a ca­reer change that would sync up the two is­sues.

“We needed a change of life­style and wanted an en­ter­prise that was close to our hearts,” says Featherby.

They con­sid­ered a restau­rant: too risky, tons of work and Toronto was al­ready well-served.

But there were no ve­gan gro­cery stores in the city. You could get ve­gan wares, but had to cob­ble them to­gether from health food and spe­cialty stores.

They found this space — both in the heart of a ve­gan-friendly neigh­bour­hood with res­tau­rants such as Veghed, The Goods and Hog­town Ve­gan nearby and also close to their apart­ment — last July and got it ready for busi­ness.

The cou­ple had saved for a house but in­vested the money here in­stead.

“It’s been quite an ed­u­ca­tion,” says Featherby of fig­ur­ing out Canada’s unique laws for ve­gan food with re­gard to la­belling and im­port­ing. Things get stopped at the bor­der and pulled from store shelves, to re­turn with more elab­o­rate la­belling.

As they fur­ther master the rules, they’re see­ing what unique finds they can bring into the mar­ket. They’re stocked with brands such as Gardein and Field Roast that cus­tomers can get else­where. But, as men­tioned, no one has an en­tire fridge of ve­gan cheese. Ex­tra cool

“We don’t do it to up­set peo­ple. It’s a good re­bel­lion.” MERCEDES FEATHERBY CO-OWNER OF GOOD REBEL

items in­clude ve­gan egg yolk, ve­gan cheese-mak­ing kits and ve­gan beef jerky that Ak­bar­ali calls “ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous.”

This tal­ented duo also cook up fresh meals in their base­ment kitchen, in­clud­ing ve­gan sand­wiches that lo­cals are al­ready so into they’re call­ing in the morn­ing to set one aside for lunch.

Fu­ture plans in­clude cre­at­ing an on­line store to reach cus­tomers out­side the neigh­bour­hood feel­ing re­bel­lious, in a good way, too. [email protected]­gan.com

CHRIS SO PHO­TOS/TORONTO STAR

Mercedes Featherby and her part­ner Mohsen Ak­bar­ali at their newly opened Dun­das St. W. store, Good Rebel.

Good Rebel, a new ve­gan gro­cery store, has a fridge stocked full of ve­gan cheese.

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