Philly Vegan Pop Flea, a pop-up vegan market, hosted its first-ever Queerly Vegan, which gave new and emerging LGBTQ vegan-business owners a platform to showcase their brands.
Despite flash-flood warnings, hundreds of vistors filled Repair the World Workshop in West Philadelphia at the one-day-only market Aug. 11. Eight LGBTQ-vegan and vegetable-friendly small-business owners participated in the event.
Marino Benedetto, owner of the New York-based vegan-hot dog company Yeah Dawg, said he traveled to Philadelphia for the event because it emphasizes the diversity of business owners.
“Supporting these types of events is important because in the general food world, it’s not very LGBT-friendly. In my experience selling my packaged hot dogs, if you don’t fit into the gender stereotypes, it makes the process harder,” Benedetto said.
A PGN reporter tasted his Cali Kush Dog, the vegetable-based hot dog slathered a chipotle mayo, coconut bacon and kale Caesar salad, and pronounced it “amazing.”
Benedetto has been selling his vegan hot dogs for more than three years. In 2012, he started street vending in Brooklyn at similar pop-up markets. Customers demanded a packaged product, he said. Benedetto now sells his vegan hot dogs — made with sunflower seeds, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots and gluten-free flour — in more than 60 stores across the Northeast, including five stores in Philadelphia.
Erica Paciello, owner of the natural body-product business Santosha, was interested in the Queerly Market as a way to meet more LGBTQ-identified people in a field that she “accidentally” stumbled into when giving loved ones homemade Christmas gifts. Paciello makes all-natural hand and body soaps, shampoo, bug spray and bath bombs with ingredients such as aloe water, organic coconut oil, hemp oil and thickening agents made from trees.
“Last year, I discovered that I like women and this is a new field for me,” she said. “This was the perfect opportunity to introduce myself into a community that I’m now a part of and to sell products that I believe in.”
Although the market featured a majority of LGBTQ business owners, the event also included ally businesses such as Nourishing Our Minds, an online plant-based food delivery service that specializes in soul and Caribbean fare.
Jonay Prailow and her husband, vendors at Saturday’s event, also attended Philly Vegan Pop Flea’s Power of Color pop-up market in July for business owners of color. The popular response compelled the couple to participate in another market, she said.
“The Power of Color market was our first opportunity to vend our products in a physical space, and the reception to our food was so overwhelmingly positive that we had to come back again,” Prailow said. “Even though I’m not a part of the LGBTQ community, I know what it’s like to be a marginalized voice in a field that typically doesn’t have a lot of African-American perspective. My goal is to introduce more of these vegan food options to the African-American community to motivate my community to eat better and avoid serious health risks.”
Erin Smedley, a body-builder who came up from Maryland to check out the event, was excited to attend the market because it represented both her queer and vegan identities.
“I live in Annapolis and there’s not really a thriving vegan scene — there’s definitely nothing that celebrates queerness along with veganism,” she said. “If there are more events like this, I’ll be making my way to Philadelphia more often.”