Chef James Bloodsaw never imagined he would one day open a restaurant — much less a vegan restaurant.
But his own experience with vegetarianism, and later veganism, that changed his fate. Bloodshaw started as a vegetarian but switched to veganism after his father’s struggles with high blood pressure, diabetes and ultimately, heart failure. On his deathbed, Bloodshaw’s father advised him to eat a better diet so he wouldn’t end up like him.
Bloodshaw then started JustVeggiez, a plant-based restaurant, catering and meal plan service. He would travel to different vegan festivals in Minnesota, Ohio, Chicago and Michigan where people could try his food.
“We do a healthier version of your favorite foods, with natural sugar and low sodium,” Bloodshaw said.
Now, he plans to open a new State Street location in April, located at 540 State Street near Target, the Hub and Whiskey Jack’s Saloon.
Recently, JustVeggiez did pop-ups for St. Patrick’s day in Madison and Milwaukee where customers could pre-order a meal with vegan corned beef, cabbage, carrots, baby red potatoes, a dinner roll and a dessert.
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The most popular foods JustVeggiez offers are pizza, a “chicken” sandwich, drumsticks and a gyro. But their menu also includes things like plant-based cheese curds, burgers, wraps, vegan fish and chicken nuggets.
As the business grew, JustVeggiez also began receiving multiple phone calls a day wondering if they had a sit-down restaurant. Bloodshaw, who felt he was losing customers due to the lack of a physical restaurant, decided he will open a restaurant in Madison.
Now, his days are occupied with the restaurant opening. He said he is constantly talking to contractors and looking for equipment while continuing to run the pick-up and catering from 11-8 every day.
But Bloodshaw is not doing it alone — he has the support of his entire family who help out at different events and in the kitchen.
“I think they are more excited than I am for the new location,” Bloodshaw said.
As a Chicago native, it was family that also led Bloodshaw to Madison. His mom came to Madison 30 years ago and begged him to come too.
Bloodshaw said he feels the support for the new restaurant beyond just his immediate family. He feels it in the community, too.
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Bloodshaw started a Kiva and GoFundme page to help with the costs. Through Kiva, the group raised $11,000.
Bloodshaw was also nominated for a Small Business Administration award. The U.S. Small Business Administration works to ignite change and spark action so small businesses can confidently start, grow, expand and recover.
Bloodshaw said while he knows switching to veganism can be a big commitment, little changes can make a big difference. Bloodshaw recommends recreating non-vegan versions of foods you already like.
“If you want to go vegan, or you’re trying to go like just start off with like, one day a week,” Bloodshaw said. “Try just to eat vegan, just that one day. And then you know, try different things you are getting used to you see the difference, you know, in the taste.”
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Bloodshaw said he is excited to open the JustVeggiez restaurant on State Street so more people can try vegan food.
“I am excited to get a sit-down dinner and serve the customers,” Bloodshaw said.