Hellenic Vincent de Paul, the business owner behind the Vegandale neighbourhood, poses in front of Doomie’s and Mythology restaurants. (VINCE TALOTTA)
The man behind an explosion of animal product-free businesses on a Parkdale block dubbed “Vegandale” attributes the growing number of stores to a growing demand for vegan products.
Three vegan businesses owned by entrepreneur Hellenic Vincent De Paul — two restaurants and a store — already sit on Queen St. W. between Brock Ave. and Dufferin St.
By Summer 2018, four more vegan businesses will join the Vegandale community: Vegandale Bracitorium, Prohibition Pie, NYM and a fourth business that’s name hasn’t been publically released.
“There is a huge demand in Toronto” for vegan products, De Paul told the Star. “I think in Toronto, generally, the demand outweights the supply.”
Doomie’s Toronto and Mythology currently serve animal product-free eats. Across the street is vegan retail store The Imperative.
“A common misconception that people have about us is that we’re opening all these businesses for vegans,” De Paul said.
“The reality is that yes, we want vegans to come, but our message is always to get people who are not vegan to come to our restaurants, or any of our other businesses, and essentially we want someone who’s not vegan to try our food, try our clothing and then to say, ‘hey you know what, I can be vegan.’ ”
Becky Reuber, a professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto, said the demand for vegan products could be a result of an underserviced market.
“Those people may be buying products at Loblaws or Metro or different stores, but then all of the sudden (there is) this location where they can go, then you have more people going to that location — then what was maybe semi-invisible behaviour suddenly becoming much more visible,” she said.
Reuber said the makeup of Vegandale will allow customers to try “new things if they choose — there may be a novelty aspect to it.”
De Paul is president of The 5700 Inc., the company behind Vegandale. Reuber said small businesses are more likely to wade into niche markets.
“It’s usually an entrepreneur that identifies the need in the market, like (De Paul) has done,” she said. “Small businesses, because they’re small, they can’t afford to do everything … and so they have to focus on something that they can do well.”
De Paul launched the Vegan Food and Drink Festival in 2015 (it’s since been rebranded the Vegandale Food and Drink Festival). It began with 5,000 attendees. This year, organizers expect 20,000.
“Even though we haven’t spent more on marketing dollars, we just see more people going out,” De Paul said. “And I think generally that’s because there’s this huge movement now where more and more people are going vegan every day.”
But De Paul’s growing number of vegan businesses are focused on ethical reasons for going vegan. He says people today are having an “aha moment.”
“We live in a time now where shoes, cars, your jeans, Big Macs, Rueben sandwiches, pizzas, can be made vegan. And I think a lot of people are asking themselves, hey, if I can live a life without exploiting any animals, without killing any animals, participating actually in the killing of animals, why wouldn’t I?”