If you give vegans a cookie, they will ask you for a market.
Or so goes the story for Michael Sabet, owner of Sweet to Lick Vegan Bakery and recently opened Sweet to Lick: The Market, in Williston Park.
Sabet, who opened the bakery five years ago, said he couldn’t satisfy all of his customers’ needs there. Vegans do not eat or use any animal products.
“At the bakery, I could make them some sweets or some cookies. I could take care of their birthday cake. I can make them lunch now,” he said.
But the handful of retail items for sale at the bakery “was not a large offering,” and clients increasingly asked for other products, he said.
At the 800-square-foot market, which he opened just a few doors down from the bakery at 82A Hillside Ave. in November, customers can find hundreds of sustainably sourced vegan goods. Products range from dairy-free cheeses and ice cream to meat substitutes made from wheat and soy. The store also stocks personal hygiene items including deodorant, soap and toothpaste.
Customers can even find meatless treats for their dogs.
For Sabet, who started by selling his vegan baked goods at farmers markets, the store is a venue to showcase “the organic, sustainably-sourced, and better-for-you” offerings of small makers — both local and international.
Lily S. Lev, a decision sciences and marketing lecturer at Adelphi University’s Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, said the steady growth of veganism within the past decade has paved the way for businesses like Sabet’s.
“In the last five to seven years . . . there’s been an overall increased awareness of the health benefits of adopting an animal-free diet,” said Lev, adding that the trend, which has ethical and moral components, enjoys a broad appeal among “health conscious” millennials.
Lev, who also owns Shopper-Sense, a shopper insights and in-store strategy consultancy, said despite “so much of retail moving online,” brick and mortar stores in the specialty food category have room to succeed.
“Retail stores that can leverage consumer interest in this food and lifestyle trend have a lot of opportunity right now,” she said, noting consumers can still be immersed in the retail experience by coming into the store, reading the labels on products, and even socializing with like-minded individuals.
Sabet said he envisions his business growth as mirroring that of Long Island’s vegan community.
“As the community grows, people have more needs and we want to be there for them,” he said. “But it’s not just about dairy-free cheeses and mock meat; it’s about providing a variety of things that most people don’t think of as being non-vegan, for example, condoms.”
Some latex condom manufacturers use casein — a milk derivative — in the latex manufacturing process, he said.
Sabet said he plans to let Sweet to Lick customers drive the market’s product offerings.
“As more people come in and say ‘Hey, I like this soap’ or ‘I want that toothpaste,’ we’ll get more of those things,” he said. “It’s a safe space for your diet and spirit. We vibe on the idea that everyone can come in, and be vegan or not.”