By Daniel Winner | AC JosepH Media Correspondent
VINELAND — Vegans Are Us, With a Touch of Soul, was founded by Sharonda Harris-Bunton in 2019.
She boasts an impressive working history, being founder of Fit Four life, Inc. and Bye Bye Belly Detox Tea. She is also director of New Level Fitness & Nutrition and has even been an actress in the film “The Upside” starring Kevin Costner and Kevin Hart.
Harris-Bunton started Vegans Are Us with the vision of a healthier community. This goal stems from her experience losing much of her family due to health complications.
“My calling is to help people be healthy, [those who] want to be healthy, [who] want to eat healthy and take care of themselves, especially the minorities,” explained Harris-Bunton. “We’re the hardest to convince. We grew up eating so many scraps and fatback and ribs and all the stuff that causes cancer and different health ailments.
“I lost all my immediate family due to health problems. This is why I decided to open up Vegans Are Us, because I didn’t want anybody to go through what I went through … Just seeing my family, one after the other just pass away, I said, ‘I have to help the community. I have to do something.'”
The restaurant brand has its origins back in 2016, with cooking shows that Harris-Bunton hosted on social media in her spare time. “Vegans Are Us used to be on at nine o’clock, making vegan lasagna, [and] people chimed in,” Harris-Bunton explained. “Then from that, I started doing vegan tastings throughout South Jersey.”
She later went on to share a business with an older gentleman in Vineland. “He needed help. So I came in, and I helped him. He got really, really sick and he passed away. I ended up running it because he was so sick.”
After the owner passed away, Harris-Bunton and her husband obtained full ownership of the building. In 2019, Vegans Are Us officially began operations at its first branch restaurant in Vineland at 636 East Landis Avenue.
Two years later on Aug. 1, 2021, Harris-Bunton opened a second restaurant at the Tanger Outlets The Walk in Atlantic City at 122 North Michigan Avenue. She has since become the first black woman to own a business in the area.
“I opened a month before the pandemic hit,” explained Harris-Bunton. “That actually helped me to expand to Atlantic City, because people wanted to be healthy.”
Plans for expansion haven’t stopped in Atlantic City. Harris-Bunton sees a big future for her business.
“I’m looking in the Cherry Hill area, and I’m going to venture out of state. My goal is to have a Vegans Are Us in every state. International as well. I have a list of people who want to franchise, from Paris to Jamaica.”
Vegans Are Us offers a unique take on American cuisine, offering a healthy and ethical alternative to favorites such as burgers, cheesesteaks, po boys, and much more.
“Please come try Vegans Are Us out,” Harris-Bunton implored. “We are different from other vegan restaurants, because in my seasonings, I have healing herbs. You don’t even know your body’s being healed by eating food. That’s the difference.
“I also do holistic counseling. I help people with different ailments that they may have. Whether it’s cancer or anything internally that we have going on, I can help them with getting them on a natural diet with herbs. So if you guys have any issues, my door’s always open.”
More information about Vegans Are Us, including their menu and catering services, can be found on their website at https://www.vegansareusnj.com/.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Winner has a double major in Religious Studies and Japanese from Penn State University and has traveled internationally to the Far East on several occasions. His insights on Buddhism and Asian culture give a unique view of historical and modern trends. He will be serving as a contributor for Front Runner New Jersey.
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