Toronto Star

GENTLE ADVOCACY

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

- 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. theteam@goodrebelv­egan.com

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 ?? CHRIS SO PHOTOS/TORONTO STAR ?? Mercedes Featherby and her partner Mohsen Akbarali at their newly opened Dundas St. W. store, Good Rebel.
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.
Good Rebel, a new vegan grocery store, has a fridge stocked full of vegan cheese.

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