Artisanal vegan specialty shop opens in Berkeley

Republic of V, Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Republic of V, an all-things-vegan store newly opened on University Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

It’s probably less of a surprise that a stylish, all-things-vegan shop has opened in Berkeley than the fact that it took so long to happen.

Republic of V opened less than three weeks ago on University Avenue east of Sacramento Street, and has won fast approval from vegans around the area.

“If you’ve ever been to Rainbow and felt like you were in a vegan toy store, your mind will be blown at Republic of V,” said one Yelper. Wrote another, “Vegan dreams are made a reality at this store!”

Recent Berkeley transplants Joe Haptas and Noelle Callahan opened Republic of V in mid-February, and have a grand opening celebration planned for March 16. Expect free tastings, “name that ingredient” food contests, team trivia, Gong Show-inspired festivities and more.

Behind the counter, Joe Haptas talks with a new customers at Republic of V. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Behind the counter, Joe Haptas talks with a new customers at Republic of V. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The shop offers an estimated 250 products, from groceries and edible treats — including local and artisanal items — to home goods, cosmetics, pet products and books.

“People who are vegan get tired of reading labels,” said Haptas this week. “Here, they don’t have to.”

Haptas previously opened and ran an all-vegan store in Seattle, which is still going strong under new ownership. He and Callahan moved to the Bay Area and, after living in San Francisco for a time, moved to Berkeley a couple months back.

The two are “longtime animal advocates” who promote plant-based eating as a better and environmentally healthy way to live, said Haptas. Both are vegan.

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As well as edibles, the new store stocks home goods, cosmetics, pet products and books. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Haptas said that, despite the soft opening and lack of advertising, word has been spreading about the store’s extensive selection and “great prices.”

“It’s been a madhouse,” he said. “It’s exceeded my expectations.”

In the future, Haptas said he hopes to hold cooking classes or other types of workshops in a back area of the shop.

Republic of V opened in what was for many years an Indian goods store. Haptas said, from time to time, people still come in, confused, looking to buy products they used to find there.

He described Republic of V as a “destination location,” and hopes it will help activate the block. Proximity to the North Berkeley BART, along with easy parking and bus access, were selling points for the neighborhood.

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“People who are vegan get tired of reading labels,” said Haptas. “Here, they don’t have to.” Photo: Emilie Raguso

A nearby storefront in the same building as Republic of V is under renovation, and Haptas said he’d love to see another vegan-friendly business go in when it’s ready to open and perhaps, over time, a like-minded cluster to include a pizza pub or café. As it is, he said he’s meeting people on a daily basis who have local vegan products to promote.

“There’s great incubation potential here,” he said. “We really hope to reinvigorate this area.”

Connect with Republic of V on Facebook or at republicofvegan.com. The shop is open at 1624 University Ave. in Berkeley from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The store can be reached by phone at 510-280-5778. Learn more here about the grand opening celebration planned for March 16.

Related:
Contest: Name that nosh (01.22.14)
Mollie Katzen: Making vegetables the rock stars (10.14.13)
Giving thanks with Berkeley’s Café Gratitude (11.24.10)
Punk rocking, vegan Cinnaholic to launch in Berkeley (05.21.10)

This story is published on Berkeleyside and Berkeleyside NOSH, our food section covering Oakland, Berkeley and beyond. Bookmark Berkeleyside NOSH and follow us on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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  • Bill N

    I hope they have a better business plan than the now closed Amadeus restaurant .

  • guest

    Republic of V is my go to place for high quality Tofu, soy milk, vegan sandwich fixings and a variety of delicious sauces. It is a great addition to the neighborhood! They have a number of cool things I had never tried before. And I can walk there!

  • Cal Grad

    Cool, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t sound like a self parody, or an Onion article on Berkeley.

  • mtaysic

    Awesome!

  • Chris J

    I’m totally cool with veganism for all the spiritual, ethical, and health and environmental values it brings. My only bother are, often, the people who practice it. For some reasons with some minor exceptions (one, a friend who doesn’t trumpet her practice to the world) I…I…, well, I’m sure there are nice vegans out there but they simply haven’t announced it or told me yet.

    Looking forward to checking the place out.

  • bacon

    Practicing is one thing, dogma is another.

    Yo vegans — stfu already.

  • Heather_W_62

    I have no idea why I, a non-vegan, has any reason to go there? Not that I don’t support them, but it’s definitely a niche market. Hope they do well.

  • emraguso

    I’m not vegan but personally there was a lot there that looked good to me that I’d like to try in the future. I don’t think you need to be vegan to eat vegan food — just like you don’t need to be vegetarian to eat vegetarian food.

  • Heather_W_62

    I agree on that Emilie, I eat veg, vegan and carnivore — not particularly picky about it, but I wouldn’t make this store a destination unless I knew there were some specialty items that might appeal to me.

  • SueT

    Sounds like a closed mind. You might really enjoy some of their products but probably won’t experience if not open to trying different things, never mind possibly more healthy than what you eat now. Forgive me for making those assumptions, I could be wrong.

  • emraguso

    There are some chocolate caramels over there that have my name all over them… I’m also curious about the vegan beauty products.

  • Chris J

    Hell yeah I like me some of that vegan food alright and it’s healthy. I’ll definitely check it out so long as no one tries to proselytize about it while I’m in the store–not talking about the owners–the customers.

  • EBGuy

    I do like that this located catty corner to the Marin Sun Farms Meat CSA drop off.

  • EBGuy

    Note to self: Stop at the vegan shop first, then pick up meat CSA box.

  • http://workitberk.blogspot.com/ Brittany

    But, do they have chocolate? That’s the real question.

  • emraguso

    Yes!!

  • Daniel

    Or an episode of Berklandia?

  • http://bitesandbourbon.com/ Brenda Ton

    This is a nice recap – I’ve been wondering about this place! Looks like I need to make a visit over.