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New fully-vegan mercantile headed for downtown Bellingham

Owners Tara and Nate Johnson perfected their craft while owning and operating local food truck.

V GO’s storefront is located at 1213 Cornwall Ave. This small business will be unique to Bellingham as its sole fully vegan shop. // By Tara Johnson

By Mallory Kruml

Tara Johnson plans to change the world with food, starting in Bellingham.

After owning and operating a vegan food truck, Johnson took what she believed to be the next step in her 7-year-long vegan journey in August.

Along with her co-owner and husband Nate, Johnson signed a building lease to fulfill their dreams of opening a fully vegan one-stop shop in the heart of downtown Bellingham.

“We named it V GO's like vegan on the go,” Johnson said. “We want anyone to be able to walk in, vegan or not, and easily make good food choices for their bodies and the planet.”

V GO's will be a convenience store with a focus on educating the public and will feature a small restaurant to complete the experience.

The restaurant portion of the shop is based on the couple's vegan food truck, Sage Against the Machine, and will include recipes originally developed for the truck.

Limited seating will be available as well as big refrigerators of food that customers can take home and heat up, along with vegan meats, cheeses and assorted produce.

“We’re calling it a mercantile because it’s a combination of a lot of different things,” Johnson said.

The owners hope to create a cool, hip space with fun music, art and handmade vegan goods and products, Johnson said.

Kristine Duncan, a registered dietitian of 25 years and a professor of nutrition at Skagit Valley College, explained that vegans typically have both healthier body weights and body mass indexes — the ratio between weight and height.

“My number one tip for aspiring vegans would be to go out and eat a vegan meal at a restaurant,” Duncan said. “They’re going to give you roasted vegetables or tofu like you’ve never had, which can be a great introduction to veganism and show you just how delicious vegan food can be.”

When Johnson and her husband first started, they had a hard time finding customers that were willing to give vegan food a shot. Now they pride themselves on their persuasive powers.

“We’d give out samples of nacho cheese on chips and throw a little bit of barbeque jackfruit and let them taste it,” Johnson said. “Just tasting our food and realizing it was delicious was enough to change their mind about vegan food and keep them coming back.”

Margaux Cudaback, a fourth-year at Western, has been vegan for close to 4 years. While she views Bellingham as a vegan-friendly city, Cudaback said she has a difficult time going out for a vegan meal.

With only one fully vegan restaurant in town, Cudaback looks forward to V GO’s opening.

“I go to multiple grocery stores to fill my pantry with vegan food, so it will be great to be able to have a one-stop shop for all my grocery needs,” Cudaback said.

Johnson plans to hire a few crew members and secure their vendors and inventory in the coming months.

The two owners hope to have a COVID-19-conscious grand opening sometime in January and urge the public to check out their Facebook for updates to come.

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