Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Veggie.
Losing Her Mom Led Engineer Adyre Mason To Open An Alabama Vegan Café
In her late 20s, Adyre (pronounced uh-dare) Mason was suffering from a myriad of health issues. The Alabama native had high cholesterol, cystic adult acne, chronic joint pain, and gastrointestinal issues. Her health woes escalated to the point where she needed medication just to get through meals. She knew that something had to change, starting with her diet.
“I transitioned over a year and a half period,” Mason shared with Travel Noire. “I went from meat to pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan over time; just to take my time and learn how my body was responding and what supplements I might need to add. As I was letting some foods go I just started to see the issues clear up.”
At the time, the University of Alabama and George Washington University grad was working as a senior weapon systems engineer, overseeing software development for an army weapon system. But she was always a foodie and learned to master cornbread as a youngster in her mother’s kitchen.
Mason grew concerned about the impact her improved diet would have on her long-term gastronomical options. This took her down the path of adapting her favorite foods to fit her vegan lifestyle. She also toyed with the idea of a restaurant and started working on a business plan. She and her mother had often mused about opening a café. Unfortunately, Sarah Mason died suddenly in 2017 from complications related to a series of strokes. The loss changed the younger Mason’s outlook.
“I realized that life was way too short to be afraid. And I just thought no one can take my education away from me. If I go out with a plan, try it, and it doesn’t work, I can always come back and be an engineer. So, I just decided to bet on myself.”
Mason completed the business plan and cashed in her 401K to raise capital for her vegan food venture, The Veggie. Initially, she started with pop-ups, showing her Southern clientele that taste didn’t need to be sacrificed with plant-based cuisine.
“We create familiar food that just so happens to be vegan,” she said. “We focus on food that people don’t have to get over that mental hump of trying. We make things like vegan ribs, vegan crab cakes, and mac and cheese. We make all these things that people already know.”
So far, Mason’s bet on herself has paid off. The Veggie has now moved to a new physical location which officially opened at the end of March. The top seller is a Philly cheese patty melt, made from an Impossible burger seared to perfection and topped with grilled peppers, onions, and of course gooey melted cheese on buttery, toasted bread. Mason’s personal favorite is a vegan crab cake sandwich which she describes as “super crispy and decadent” drizzled with a house barbecue rémoulade.
Another convenient option is The Veggie’s contractless meal prep and delivery service. There are also casual to-go sandwiches, wraps, bowls, and daily specials.
She estimates that 30 to 40 percent of their customers are not vegan but are just people wanting to incorporate something healthier into their regular routine. That statistic is particularly important to Mason. She tried to get her mother to switch to a plant-based diet and believes that if she had succeeded, Sarah — a lover of all things fried — would have lived longer.
“I hope that my type of food at least encourages people to eat healthy. Even if they only come to The Veggie once, it inspires them to maybe start buying plant-based cheese or plant-based substitutes. I hope that I can contribute to keeping someone else’s mom or aunt or grandmother here longer and to have a better quality of life.”
For this reason, Mason is all about making her food accessible. She envisions expanding The Veggie in the south, along the east coast, in airport terminals, and on college campuses; anywhere there is a need for plant-based options.
Mason wants to bridge that gap to change the way eating vegan is perceived, especially on the go. But as momentum builds in her business, she can’t help but think of her single mom who taught her to cook from the age of seven.
“My mom was a workhorse. I know that she would be right in the kitchen with me prepping. She’d be making everybody laugh. And I think that she would be really proud. We used to fantasize about this small location that was about 500 square feet. My café is six times that size. I never imagined that I would start out with my first location. It’s a 100-year-old factory that was converted into studios and café spaces for food businesses. It’s just an awesome location that really fits our aesthetic and vibe. I believe my mom would be super proud, and she’d be getting to work right alongside me.”