BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — "Congratulations" balloons greet customers at the entrance to Sunshine Vegan Eats on Jefferson Avenue. The restaurant is celebrating its one-year anniversary.
Sunshine Vegan Eats is a Black-owned vegan restaurant, one of about a dozen in the state according to Afro-Vegan Society. It's the only Black-owned vegan restaurant in Buffalo, according to industry websites like VEGWORLD Magazine.
For owner Nikki Searles it's not just about food, but making people more aware of a healthy lifestyle.
“I decided to open Sunshine Vegan Eats because I realized there were no vegan options, number one, and I realized that the community was much needed, and healthier options,” Searles said.
The restaurant opened on March 7, 2020, about a week later indoor dining shutdown.
“I’m a foodie, so I miss the part of being able to sit down and dine-in, I do miss that,” Searles said.
Despite the pandemic, Searles said the first year is not much different than she imagined, thanks to takeout apps, patio dining, and loyal customers. She regularly uses social media to connect with customers.
She said she has customers come from Niagara Falls and Rochester. Dr. Cozzette Lyons-Jones is originally from Buffalo, but now lives in Los Angeles. She follows a plant based diet.
"It's refreshing when you see it in our community, you know in Black and Brown communities to be able to have the traditional flabors that go with our culture being brought in with the healthy slant to it, marrying the two the culture and the health," Lyons-Jones said.
Skye Khan is a vegetarian who lives in Buffalo.
“There are so little restaurants in Buffalo that will give you everything that you want, and this place just throws everything at you," Khan said.
The impossible Niyah, a vegan steak hoagie, is the top seller. It's a favorite for meat eaters too, customers tell us.
Searles said she wants people to keep an open mind when they hear the word vegan, and just try a dish. That's what Faustenia Morrow, who said she enjoys eating meat, is doing.
“She (Searles) gives you that gentle push, and so by having Sunshine Vegan Eats here in the community, she's giving us a gentle push to do better,” said Morrow.