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Georgia’s first vegan food truck park changing with the times

Veganish has helped businesses like O'Yeah It's Vegan find customers. Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Veganish has helped businesses like O'Yeah It's Vegan find customers. Courtesy of Tan Bowers

When Atlanta Food Truck Park was opened by Tan Bowers on Howell Mill Road in 2012, it provided a central location for local vendors to sell their dishes and build a customer base. The park was the first of its kind in the state.

Then, when Bowers adopted a vegan lifestyle in 2018, she wanted to pivot to a vegan food truck park, to reflect the change. She tested the idea as a vegan block party, and, after its success, she decided to make the switch.

In 2022, she relocated the food truck park to Jonesboro as a haven for vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian mobile restaurants, and renamed it Veganish ATL. Bowers found that most of her customers hardly noticed when the food truck park switched to offering plant-based food, probably because they trusted the brand she had built over the years.

“People came for the experience; it just so happened that the experience had gone vegan,” she said.

Veganish provided a low point of entry for burgeoning vegan chefs seeking to connect with customers. Bowers allowed food trucks, trailers and tents to set up at the park, so vendors didn’t have to sink resources into binding leases and costly equipment.

Superior Vegan made its jackfruit "chik'n" sandwich available at Veganish, a vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian food truck park. Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

At the same time, Bowers gave Atlanta area residents an easy way to experience vegan food. It was an educational experience, she said, a gateway into the range of flavors and ingredients that plant-based chefs can produce.

“People literally started going vegan on the weekends,” Bowers said. “They would say to us, I’m not vegan, but I’m veganish.”

Food truck parks make it easier for diners to discover new food businesses in one convenient spot, and they provide new chefs the opportunity to reach more customers. Through the years, Veganish has served as a launchpad for 7Suns 2Moons, Calaveritas and O’ Yeah It’s Vegan, Bowers said.

Poreyah Benton, chef and owner of the Vegan Ahava food truck, moved to Atlanta from Connecticut about two years ago. One of the hardest parts about running a mobile restaurant is finding a customer base, Benton said, but operating within Veganish, an established food truck park, allowed her to grow much more quickly.

Benton said that Bowers “brought something that Los Angeles was already doing, or New York was already doing; she brought that down here.”

Veganish's off-site vegan food tour visited Spelman and Morehouse colleges' homecoming week in 2022. Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of Tan Bowers

Since Veganish opened in Jonesboro, the vegan dining scene in Atlanta has grown rapidly, Bowers said. Not only are there more plant-based restaurants, but there also are many other dining spots offering some kind of vegan or vegetarian option.

As a result, Bowers said she has seen more people in the plant-based community asking for their diet to be normalized — they want to coexist with nonvegans, instead of feeling isolated.

This mindset has led Bowers to the next iteration of her business. In May, she’ll relocate the food truck park from Jonesboro to McDonough and change the name to Southside Market Place. The new food truck park will have a plant-based focus, but it also will be open to those serving animal products. Meanwhile, Veganish will become a separate vegan food tour that will travel around metro Atlanta.

“There are people who, if (vegan food is) not available to them where they go, they’ll never seek it out,” she said.

Bowers’ goal is to attract the people who already live a vegan lifestyle and those who never have been exposed to it. She hopes to show guests they still can find their cultural foods and flavors in vegan and vegetarian form.

“Pretty soon, you’ll be able to get vegan anywhere,” Bowers said. “And those in the vegan lifestyle feel like we deserve that.”

Veganish. instagram.com/atlfoodtruckpark

Southside Market Place. Expected to open in early May at 2050 Avalon Parkway, McDonough. instagram.com/atlfoodtruckpark

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