Nikki Searles opened Sunshine Vegan Eats at 893 Jefferson Avenue, minutes away from Canisius, with the hope to give other vegans more options in terms of what they eat.
She understands that vegans have few to no options on what to eat, especially when going out to meals, and this is something that she wanted to change. Searles herself became vegan herself recently after not eating meat for 21 days as a way to stay healthy during her inability to work out due to an accident that she was in. After doing this cleanse, she decided for her own health to go vegan. “I did a 21-day detox just to reset my body and my mind,” she said.
Searles spent a lot of time cooking her own vegan meals realizing that even though some restaurants have vegan options, there aren’t a lot of restaurants in the area that are exclusively vegan. This led her to establish Sunshine Vegan Eats.
She’s been travelling and going to different restaurants to figure out new ideas for recipes, and also found that she is more of a visual learner, leading her to resort to Google and Instagram for inspiration. She finds new recipes and creates ways to put her own spin on them. “If I see something that looks appealing, I start researching to see how I can make that my own,” Searles said.
Searles feels that people should try to become vegan for their own health and benefits, but never pushes that upon anyone. She made food for a wedding, and did not tell any of the guests that the food was vegan until after they ate. “If they knew what they were eating ahead of time, they probably wouldn’t have wanted to eat it,” she said. She explained that the guests couldn’t believe the food they were eating was vegan and were shocked at how good it was. Searles found that when people hear that food is vegan they immediately assume that it won’t appeal to them. She’s more than happy to give any customers samples, especially if they may be skeptical.
Sunshine Vegan Eats opened in March in the midst of the pandemic. The business was successful at first, but after COVID-19 hit, she faced many challenges. Business slowed down, but she was able to continue through the support of her customers and the use of Doordash, Grubhub and the like. Business has improved since restaurants have slowly been reopening; she understands that people in Buffalo love to eat and since outdoor seating is available, customers are able to feel more comfortable eating out. Her plans for the company’s future include adding an additional day that they are open. They are open currently Thursday through Sundays, but would like to be open Wednesday through Sundays to give those who are vegan more options in terms of what to eat.
Some items on the menu during a visit on Thursday included fried green tomatoes ($8), fish or shrimp tacos ($13) and a selection of vegan sandwiches and burgers made with Impossible or Beyond Meat products.
The Jefferson ($15), a sandwich made with vegan shrimp, lettuce, pickles, onions and a creamy sauce hit the spot along with a side of fresh-cut french fries. The sauce was particularly good, a tangy blend that went well with the crispy shrimp.
Searles has a positive attitude and feels that everyone should use their mornings as a fresh start. She sees every day as another opportunity to accomplish something new, and encourages others to do the same.