A small vegan grocery store opened nearly a year ago, on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda, my little town. When it opened I thought that it represented something that was happening in the community, a kind of revival at the core. It seemed to me part of a sustainable initiative that would bring real benefits to everyone and improve the general quality of life.
I’m not a capitalist, not a socialist, not a communist. People will do what they must to live together and they will do as they please to secure their lives, their property and their kin. The rulers will rule as long as we will bow. When we storm the bastille they will tremble and run for their lives. The power is ours to wield, or not. We owe our lives to each other. That is the whole truth about the politics of everyday life.
When that small vegan store opened for business in March of 2018, I felt the centre of gravity of the community shift slightly. The results were real, observable even within my own family.
We were not vegan then; we still aren’t today. We’re not even committed vegetarians.
But we were all drawn to the idea of veganism, as individuals and collectively, as a family. In our discussions about food, we all agreed that we were not comfortable with factory farmed food in general; meat products were especially distasteful. Please understand that I’m not particularly squeamish about food. I’m a country boy who grew up seeing my father kill and clean a yard fowl for our dinner, or gut and clean some fresh-caught fish for the frying pan. I’ve done those things myself, in my turn, during those young years of my life.
These are different times. I live in a city now and there’s no room for yard fowl, no easy access to fresh-caught fish from an unpolluted ocean or river. There’s no farmer next door, no cows and goats in the backyard field. We keep a kitchen garden and a small compost heap in our tiny backyard where the plants struggle to find sufficient sunlight to grow strong and bear fruit. But it’s an important gesture and we make it, every year.
So when the vegan food store opened on Oliver, we felt like a small sun had come down in our midst.
You must understand that to an objective observer, all this would be invisible. We were feeling all these things but the only thing we would ever buy from the store was non-dairy ice-cream, pretty much. (I must say – you have to try it. Just the best.) But there was change happening inside the family, catalyzed by the presence of the The Vegan Grocery Store on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
Slowly, as if in response to the shift in the centre of gravity of the neighborhood, meat products slowly disappeared from the weekly grocery list; it’s still an ongoing process and I have no idea where it’s going to end up.
What I can say is that we’re educating ourselves about the situation of the planet and we’re trying to figure out what we can do to effect a remedy. A plant based diet is probably best for us and for the planet but old ways are hard to change. It’s complicated.
And although I’m still not vegan, I’m really, really happy that The Vegan Grocery Store is still open on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
Go get some of that non-dairy ice cream. You’ll love it.