Even vegans are against ‘morally superior’ Vegandale’s ‘takeover’ of low-income Toronto neighbourhood

The residents of Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood are calling it a “takeover.”

In 2016, 5700 Inc. opened its first vegan restaurant, Doomie’s. Since then, the company has aggressively expanded, opening an additional vegan restaurant, a vegan ice cream parlour, a vegan bakery, a vegan retail store and a vegan brewery — all within the same block. Up next is a vegan pie shop. The company dubbed the area “Vegandale.”

Now, at the centre of the community, residents are walking by signs advertising “morality on tap,” “morally superior IPA,” and another that may reflect the company’s intentions in Parkdale: “Sometimes you have to remodel your space in order to remodel society.”

Last Saturday, as Vegandale was hosting a block party to celebrate opening three new businesses, 250 Parkdale residents gathered at a heated public forum to voice their concerns with the expansion. A list of demands formed by the community include removing all references of Vegandale from storefronts and the accompanying “morally superior” advertising.

Some of the Vegandale signs and advertisements have resulted in negative backlash.

But aside from the community’s omnivores, who obviously aren’t pleased with the branding, Vegandale’s expansion has found opponents in the camp it thought it’d be sure to please — the vegan one.

“As a person who is vegan and has chosen to have a plant-based lifestyle for the past 18 years, I don’t find myself reflected in an abrasive morally superior Vegandale,” said Stacey Norton, who’s lived in and around Parkdale for 11 years.

Norton isn’t supporting Vegandale because of what she calls “repulsive” marketing decisions behind the series of restaurants and shops. Dubbing 5700 Inc.’s businesses Vegandale could’ve happened organically, she said, but instead the moniker was pushed onto people. And the advertisements and slogans associated with it aren’t helping.

Instead of engaging non-vegans in open conversation, Norton said, the advertisements may result in omnivores being driven away with reinforced stereotypes about vegans being aggressively self-righteous.

“Vegandale is that one person at a party speaking at you, not with you,” Norton said. “It’s the mansplainer of Queen (Street) West.”

The backlash from community members like Norton hasn’t swayed 5700 Inc. owner Hellenic Vincent de Paul, who describes himself as a “vegan extremist.” He said his Vegandale businesses are inclusive — so much so that, according to his surveys, a majority of his customers aren’t living plant-based lifestyles.

His company doesn’t want Vegandale to replace Parkdale, he said, but the concerns the community is voicing about his brand won’t stop his expansion plans either. He never would’ve been able to expand, he said, if not for their support of his businesses.

The Parkdale neighbourhood has, for years, been vegan-friendly. The community, also referred to as Little Tibet, is home to dozens of Tibetan, Indian and West Indian restaurants that cater to a diverse immigrant community. Historically, restaurants in the area have kept prices low, accommodating what the neighbourhood’s primarily low-income residents can spend.

For example, at Om Restaurant, an Indian and Tibetan establishment about 500 metres west of Vegandale, the most expensive item on the vegetarian section of its …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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