Walking into Nami Vegan Sweets is like walking into a trendy minimalist art gallery on Roosevelt Avenue. Located on 7th Street and Palm Lane, Nami which has been in operation for about 10 years is primarily known for its plant-based ice cream, better known by patrons as tSoynami, but features many other enticing treats and snacks from burritos to cakes.
McKenna Smith, a manager who has been working for the company for about three years, says that Nami appeals to “adults trying to ﬁnd some vegan comfort food, those interested in veganism but don’t know where to start or the average omnivore.”
Nami’s brick and mortar shop is clad in a cyan trim and a large frozen yogurt dollop sign above the entrace, and inside there is an open, minimalist ﬂoorplan. Wooden benches line the walls, white tiles adorn the kitchen and colorful local art pieces have been hung around the store, which lends to Nami’s modern Instagram-able aesthetic.
Nami boasts a modest worker size of approximately 13-16 staﬀ members, primarily part-timers, who work alongside Smith and the management team. Those who do work full-time are provided with standard healthcare beneﬁts such as medical, dental and opitcal. Starting pay, Smith says, is minimum, though that wage does include tips. An employee just starting out can make as much as $18-20 an hour with tips included, sometimes more on a busy weekend night.
Hitendra Chaturvedi, a Professor of Practice, Supple Chain Management at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, says that a small business like Nami “needs to engage with the community, and have a unique ambience to diﬀerentiate itself to create a brand name and compete with the large retail chains like Starbucks etc.,”
Nami situates itself pretty nicely within the niche of the vegan lifestyle which has been gaining a lot of traction amongst people who are looking for more compassionate ways to consume their food. An option that is available at most giants like Starbucks or Dutch Bros., but the difference lies in the company’s well-rounded ecological approach. Not only are the products 100% vegan, as featured on their website, but Nami tries its hardest to use bio-degradable materials in their cups, boxes and ﬂatware wherever possible.
“We use biodegradable plastic cups; the compostable ones,” Smith explains. “We try to where we can get as much recycling and compostable materials as possible.”
Though Nami’s popularity is primarily through word-of-mouth, the vegan sweets shop has a sizeable presence on Instagram, @namivegansweets. Nami showcases its comprehensive menu of vegan treats to its nearly 30,000 follows and Smith says that the company takes joy in reposting customer pictures from their visit at the establishment to boost engagement with their patrons.
“We try to promote other people talking about us as much as possible!” Smith says. “We notice when something is extra beautiful when [customers are] taking pictures and try to reach out to them.”
When asked about her favorite experiences on the job, Smith was quick to say that it is “when people wilk in oﬀ the street and have no idea what vegan means,”
Smith says that it is always an enjoyable sight to see customers, who are not really sure about veganism, walk into Nami and get to experience vegan comfort food for the ﬁrst time.
Tanner Brelje, who is not vegan himself, had a peach cobbler tSoynami with vanilla and earl gray ice cream. “I really enjoy the aesthetic of the store as well as the abundance of options they have,” he said. “Also, it’s one of the few places that I’ve been to that actually have Earl Gray as an option.”
Brelje went on to say that the ice cream provided at Nami is just as good as regular non-vegan ice cream and that the toppings really add to the menu options and “makes it all come together.”