Early Bird Vegan cafe, owned by Chef Krystal Mack is located in South Phoenix on 17th street and Broadway Road. Mack’s intention for this vegan cafe was to bring awareness about healthy eating into the black community. While still making it tasty and convenient.

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By promoting healthy food in a community where a lot of healthy options aren’t available, she hopes to educate her community while guiding them towards a healthier lifestyle.

“We have a space where we welcome this into the community. We welcome health, we welcome wellness into the community and that’s what we want. We want to build healthier communities from the inside out,” said Mack.

Through Macks vegan and culinary experience she realized that healthy eating wasn’t promoted as heavily on the south side of Phoenix. She said that when she worked as a personal chef for athletes, she would have to travel far to get good produce at grocery stores. This realization of food disparity pushed her to provide healthy options for vegans and non vegans.

“I really wanted to have it available for people like me in the community or people who were curious even if they weren’t like me, people who were curious about veganism and eating plant based and just incorporating more vegetables or just you know people who have health conditions,” said Mack.

Early Bird Vegan. (Photo by Kamri Radden)

Creating a sense of familiarity, convenience and comfort was also essential for Mack, as she knew it would make customers more open to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.

“Here was an opportunity to feel comfortable to come into a space that you know it’s on their side of town, that they’re familiar with, that they’re gonna see people who look like them and feel comfortable to come into a space and order food that tastes good,” said Mack.

She was aware of the misconceptions people in her community have about vegan food, and she is passionate about educating and showing them that there are ways to still make vegan food taste just as good as food with animal products. Macks menu consists of traditional salads, juices and smoothies, but she also offers vegan food with a twist.

A lot of items on her menu are plays off of comfort food and non vegan meals, so customers still get the flavor they’re looking for, while putting healthy food into their bodies.

“People think that maybe eating vegan or going plant based is gonna be tasteless and bland when it’s really not or they have the misconception that it’s all you know nuts berries and twigs and it’s not,” said Mack. “We are a transitional eaters restaurant in a sense of you know, yea we do have some salads and raw vegetables on the menu but we have lots of cooked items and these are items that are gonna be reminiscent of things that they ate when they were young or things that they are used to.”

Willie Alvarez, Macks creative director, assists in “telling the story through the food.” He helps with the web design, and capturing the food as well as the customers reactions to the food.

Alvarez appreciates what Mack is doing, especially considering her background as a woman of color.

“When it comes to Early Bird Vegan in particular its like okay knowing that this brand is doing something like amazing and impactful for the community is one way to it but then you have the owner behind it you know who is woman owned, black owned, asian owned and is actually like in it for the right reasons. Like this is my community. I’m from this community, we need to eat better,” said Alvarez.

Next door to Early Bird Vegan, will soon be a colonic shop owned by Rosalind Akins. Akins was intentional about placing her services next to Macks as they are both pushing for health and wellness in their community.

Akins said she was proud of Mack and the work she was doing because it is important to educate the community about the fact that health starts from the inside out.

“Your food is your medicine,” said Akins.

She often educates customers who come on days where Early Bird Vegan is not open or they have closed already.

She tells the customers, “I want you to try it with the intention and with the knowledge that this is what gets you well because what’s dead cannot give you life, and what’s life can pour and enhance your life,” said Akins.

For everyone involved, Early Bird Vegan means hope and healing for the Black community.

“Having Early Bird Vegan in South Phoenix means that we’re the first but it’s not the last,” said Mack.