But the (Veggie) Hot Dog Roller
Portland’s All-Vegan Grocery
The Satya Interview with Chad Miller
Chad Miller and Emiko
Badillo dressed up for vegan halloween.
It’s becoming a more vegan world out there, with soy meats, milks
and other veggie substitutes sprouting up in local supermarkets. What
a delight! Major companies are getting hip to the vegan economy and the
importance of nourishing us. But who knew this world was ready for an
entirely vegan grocery?
Chad Miller and Emiko Badillo of Food Fight! Grocery in Portland, Oregon—that’s
who. Self-proclaimed lazy, junk food vegans, Chad and Emiko created a haven for
vegans who love to indulge. Food Fight! takes everything delicious and vegan
in the world, the best meats, cheeses, salties and sweets, and combines it with
a healthy dose of activism.
Their vision? That vegans can have their favorite foods in a one-stop shop. But
beyond consumption, Chad and Emiko hope their store will inspire change with
a whole host of animal rights events, movie screenings and demos… encouraging
those lazy vegans to get off the couch.
In between ringing up customers and snacking on a locally baked vegan cinnamon
bun, Chad Miller spoke with Maureen C. Wyse about the ins and outs of the vegan
Why an all-vegan grocery?
We were tired of going to several different grocery stores to find everything
we needed. So in 2003, we decided to max out all our credit cards and just do
We also thought it would be a way to help change some of the stereotypes of what
people think vegans eat, while making it easier for people to be vegan. [Laughter.]
How hard was it to get started?
It was easy. There was nothing too daunting about it, other than being scared
to go in debt. Portland was a good place to do it because there’s a community
here that supported it.
Like any start-up business, we couldn’t get loans and neither one of us
comes from any kind of money—no rich uncles or anything. We had a small
business going for a while doing graphic design so we could have a little extra
We started by selling what we wanted to eat. We knew we were lazy and not terribly
health conscious, so we started with fast food stuff.
What are your biggest sellers?
Actually a lot of people try to do their regular grocery shopping here. We sell
really good bread from a local vegan bread company, and have a fake meat section
with a lot of the more Asian stuff, fake shrimp and chicken. Those are always
big sellers. Jerkys are a big hit—Primal Strips just came out with a “Slim
Jim” that’s really good. We have a new cheese—Shreese from
Scotland—that sells a lot even though it’s so expensive.
Do you have any really gratifying Food Fight! moments?
I had a few really good moments of people going vegan after coming in. We make
it easier for them. They come here and don’t have to read labels. People
come in with their parents and see normal-looking food, instead of hemp protein
bars or something like that. The most rewarding thing has probably been the benefits
and events we’ve done for the SHAC 7 kids. We’ve made some really
Do people travel far and wide for the all-vegan grocery in Portland?
During the last presidential race Dennis Kucinich came in like three times. That
was pretty cool. We’ve become this weird little tourist spot for very specific
people. You’ll see people taking pictures outside and people read our blog.
We have this whole crew of people that come by and hang out like it’s Cheers.
People come to you because you have a store and act like you’re a vegan
oracle, it’s so funny.
What’s your advice for aspiring vegan business owners?
Stop talking about it, just do it. It’s not that hard. Pretty much anything
you want to do, just break it down into individual steps. I think as long as
you let your personality be attached to it, and separate yourself from all the
corporate shitty businesses, and give back to the community, people will support
There’s not really any magic formula for it. There’s always the risks,
but I guess we just didn’t care too much if we went broke, we figured,
might as well give it a shot.
Beyond the store, what other sorts of outreach and stuff do you do?
Movie nights seem to be our thing because they’re easy. You can always
get people to show up and put money in a box and give it to whoever you think
deserves it. We have one coming up of The Witness and we’re giving all
the money to a local farm sanctuary.
We, along with Herbivore magazine, organized a recent circus protest. It actually
went over really well. We had a good turn out, went through several thousands
of pieces of literature and stopped a few people from going in. We’re trying
to figure out ways to turn people from straight-up consumers to doing whatever
they’re comfortable with in terms of activism.
What’s next? You mentioned moving…
We’re keeping an eye out for a bigger location so we can have a real produce
section. We’re right next-door to an all-vegan tattoo shop, so with them
and the vegan bakery, Sweet Pea, we’re trying to all go into one building.
Our goal when we first opened up was to be just like 7-Eleven and have fuckin’ nacho
cheese pumps, a hot chili thing, slurpees and stuff. But we realized our location
was too small and it couldn’t meet health code requirements. But that’s
still going to happen. We’re still going to get a nacho cheese pump—and
a hot dog roller!
Food Fight! All Vegan Grocery, 4179 SE Division Street,
corner of 42nd Ave, Portland, OR. Open daily 10am-8pm. Online orders available
as well. Contact www.foodfightgrocery.com or
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