Since opening in 1996, Footscray grocer and wholesaler Vincent Vegetarian has developed a cult following for its condiments and range of plant-based meat and seafood substitutes. Now Daniel Ng, son of owner Vincent Ng, is introducing the products to Fitzroy with Vincent’s Marketplace – a contemporary offshoot of the original store.
“My dad was quite unsure at first,” Ng tells Broadsheet. “But I told him that this is the new way to go; that we need to invest in a [new] environment.”
So Ng quit his job as an aerospace engineer to focus on the project. The Ngs designed the space themselves with help from Hex Constructions on the build.
The new shop is a stark contrast to its Footscray predecessor. Instead of rainbow-coloured PVC curtains, customers are greeted by floor-length windows, indoor foliage and an emerald-and-white colour scheme. Vincent Vegetarian’s trademark lotus-flower logo has been swapped for a similarly-shaped triad of leaves. Products are displayed gallery-like on wooden shelves, under glass domes and in stand-up freezers (so you can see what’s inside).
“At Footscray, everything's packed,” says Ng. “Over here, I wanted to create something where you feel relaxed and can browse slowly. It’s like a showcase.”
There’s plenty to peruse, starting with Vincent Vegetarian’s own product range, which they import from Malaysia and Taiwan. The products intially attracted customers from across Asia for religious reasons, says Ng, who was raised as a Buddhist. The Vincent’s range is free from onion, garlic, chives and leeks to suit strict Buddhist diets.
Ethical and environmentally-minded consumers have since become the primary clientele. The range now includes plant-based faux prawns, bacon, eggs, chicken nuggets and even a vegan fish sauce.
There’s also a selection of American, Australian and European items – mostly confectionary – to meet recent demand for Western products. Plus there’s coffee from St Ali, pastries from Weirdoughs and cakes from Mahadeva’s Kitchen.
379 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
(03) 8414 9913
Sat to Thu 8am–6pm