Coming this spring, vegans will have a new restaurant to call their own, one featuring “stick-to-your-ribs” treats including a sandwich that resembles an Arby’s Beef-n-Cheddar, plus wraps that taste like a Philly Cheese Steak or Buffalo Chicken.
Stanley Chase III, owner-operator at Louisville Vegan Jerky Co., says the idea for a storefront has been on his mind for a while. It will be called Morels, after the hard-to-forage mushroom he’s bringing to the city.
Morels, in the space most recently occupied by For Goodness Crepes at 619 Bardstown Road, is being remodeled to seat about 20 inside and 10 more on the back patio, Chase said.
“It’s not health food, but it’s vegan that tastes good,” said Chase, who said the menu will change frequently to reflect his own creative ideas. “We will have stuff that no one in Louisville has ever seen.”
Among those rare items will be morels, a popular fungus with cult following nationally.
“They’re special, a hidden gem. They’re hard to find and expensive. We made some jerky with them in October and started finding people all over the world that wanted them,” he said, adding that he sold out a batch of vegan jerky made with morels at $20 a bag. He’s found a Michigan supplier who he thinks will be able to keep up with demand.
Chase, who is a member of a national plant-based food association, calls himself a “passionate consumer” and keeps up with new concepts in the trade.
Chase says the storefront has been an idea festering for a while now, so much that he says his wife is tired of hearing about it. The original target for opening was in the summer, but when the space became available last week, he pulled the trigger early.
Chase said the For Goodness Crepes operation closed around New Year’s, and had announced plans to reopen. But he said he learned the space would be available last week and quickly completed the deal.
Chase, who talked about the Vegan Jerky operation on the EatDrinkTalk podcast last August, launched a food truck (also named Morels) in 2011. He later sold the truck and began preparing wraps that were distributed through local Rainbow Blossom and Heine Brothers locations.
Even though he says he was selling up to 1,000 wraps a week, he shut down that part of his business in 2014 to focus on the growing jerky operation.
When EDT talked to Chase last August, he was manufacturing 20,000 bags of jerky monthly in one warehouse. Since, he’s added a second warehouse on Bishop Lane and struck a deal with a distributor to supply 180 Whole Foods stores. In December, the company shipped 70,000 bags.
The operation employs 17 people, and Chase said a few will move over to the storefront, and there will be some new hires.
Chase hasn’t finalized operating hours, but said the store likely will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with longer hours on weekends.