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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: The Only Two All-Vegan Restaurants in N.H. Run in the Family

Paige Sutherland for NHPR
Willow Mauck, owner of Willows Plant Based Eatery in Concord, learned her cooking skills from her mother Norma Koski, who owns Susty's Cafe in Northwood.

When you walk into Willows on South Main Street in downtown Concord, you are greeted by the vibrant purple walls and bright artwork that fills the dining room.

Willows opened up in April and its menu is entirely vegan and organic.

That’s because owner Willow Mauck was raised in a vegetarian home to a vegan mother in Deerfield. She was nine when she decided to become vegan.

“You know being an animal lover my whole life and being raised that animals are friends not food, I kind of just made the connection,” Mauck.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Willows Plant Based Eatery in downtown Concord is an all vegan and organic restaurant that opened up in April.

But 29-year-old Mauck said that while her mother, Norma Koski, never forced her children to be vegan, she did teach them how to cook like a vegan. She taught her three children how to make dishes with tofu, seitan and veggie burgers.

Koski also owns her own vegan restaurant in Northwood called Susty’s Café, which has been around for more than 17 years. And yes, the same shade of purple adorns her walls as well.

While her daughter dreamed of opening a restaurant since childhood, Koski just sort of fell into the business. 

“We just wanted to get vegan food out in other places so people had options – that’s all it was about," Koski said.

Twenty years ago vegan wasn’t trendy like it is now, Koski said. 

“They couldn’t pronounce the word – veg-gan what’s veeg-in," she said laughing. "No, the world has changed a lot."

But even though the vegan community has grown – Koski’s business doesn’t plan to. Koski said she lives by the business motto "small is beautiful."

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Susty's Cafe in Northwood is the first all vegan and organic restaurant in the state that opened up more than 17 years ago.

“A lot of people want to do chains and stuff, so many people have tried to get me to be a chain or put my sandwiches in a box or all this, it’s like no," she said laughing. "There is enough business stuff to take care of who wants to be doing that?"

This business philosophy differs from her daughter’s, who hopes the hustle and bustle of Concord will allow her business to grow to other locations.

Unlike Koski, Mauck also wants to keep up with the times. Mauck is planning to be active on social media and is working on a website – something her mother’s cafe never had.

Willows also accepts credit cards, which has been a recent addition to Susty’s. For the first 12 years it was open – Koski was accepting IOUs from anyone and everyone who came in.

“Because it’s just such a trusting thing – people don’t steal vegan food and if they do, I want them to have it, seriously,” she said with a chuckle.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
For the first 12 years that Susty's Cafe was open, Norma Koski accepted IOU's for payment. Koski says, "People don't steal vegan food."

Although their business models may differ, their menus are pretty similar - except when it comes to one thing: fried food.

“I get people wanting them here thinking that because I am the daughter of the owner of Susty’s that we are automatically going to have tofu fries and soy fritters but that’s not the case," Mauck said.

But in the next few months, Mauck said she does hope to add booze to her menu,  something that her mother’s café doesn't offer.

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