After her mom died suddenly in her early 60s, Adyre Mason thought a lot about how to “help other people’s mom or sister or grandma be here longer.”
It was 2017 and Mason was 10 years into a career as a weapon systems engineer on Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal. But food was her real passion. Whenever Mason wasn’t working, she was usually cooking, hosting dinner parties and theme-nights. That sort of thing. About a year before her mom’s death, Mason started working on a business plan for a food-related venture, but never finished it.
“When my mom passed, I was just evaluating life at that point,” Mason tells me. “What do I actually enjoy doing every day? And the only thing I could think of was to cook. Losing my mom wasn’t the catalyst I wanted to have, but it was the catalyst to shake me out of my rut and go for it.”
Mason completed her business plan. She cashed in her 401 K to generate $20,000 in start-up money, and in November 2017 quit her engineering job.
That December, she did a soft launch for a vegan comfort-food business called The Veggie, doing pop-ups and small community events in Huntsville, as well as hosting private tastings. The Veggie officially opened in January 2018.
Working out of a tiny, shared kitchen near Parkway Place mall, the business delivers plant-based versions of biscuits and gravy, collard greens, mac & cheese, etc., to clients within a 25-mile radius, including Huntsville, Madison, New Market, etc. “We try to focus on the heartier, more familiar dishes,” Mason says, “so people can get over that mental hump of trying something that’s plant-based.”
Growing up in a Southern, African-American family, Mason has been cooking since she was seven or so. As a child she was often responsible for cooking cornbread for their household’s meals. “My mom was such an amazing cook,” she says. “If I can get my vegan food to taste like the nonvegan food I grew up on then I’m doing OK.” Her mom’s collards and Mexican casserole were two childhood faves.
Adyre Mason’s first name is pronounced “uh dare.” After graduating valedictorian from Sheffield High School in 2003, she went on to study at University of Alabama in Huntsville and George Washington University.
Mason was inspired to become a vegan after a series of health issues in her 20s, including high cholesterol, adult acne and chronic joint pain. She eased into veganism, including a vegetarian phase (which still allows dairy products), over a period of 18 months.
After a couple months eating a more-plant based diet, Mason had a follow-up appointment with her doctor. Her cholesterol was down. The joint pain had significantly decreased and the acne was starting to subside.
“That,” Mason says, “was the light bulb moment for me: ‘Wow, a lot of the things I’m experiencing are just a function of my diet, and if I can get over not eating the same types of things and try new things I can feel better day.’” Mason says she’s only been sick twice during her six years as a vegan.
Her mom, Sarah Mason, died from complications related to lupus and fibromyalgia, after suffering two strokes. Adyre had been trying to get Sarah to also adopt a plant-based diet, which Sarah’s doctors had recommended. “My mom wanted all of her fats and fried stuff and all those good things,” Mason says. “The biggest problem for her in changing her diet was, ‘How is eating going to still be enjoyable if I make such a drastic change?’”
Which is why accessibility now drives The Veggie’s menu. Signature items include a taco salad (house-made tortilla chips, fresh greens, taco chili, pico de gallo, avocado cream), spinach and root enchiladas (green chili cream sauce roasted golden beets, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, black beans, pickled red onion), baked ziti (house-made marinara, penne pasta, cheeses, blend of Gardein beefless ground and Beyond Meat hot Italian sausage) and a buffalo cauliflower wrap (Roasted cauliflower, pickled red onion. carrot, tomato, spinach tortilla). “We don’t do anything store-bought,” Mason says. That includes the vegan cinnamon rolls, which they ship worldwide, and drinks, including mango ginger lemonade.
The Veggie’s meal-prep/delivery services include one, three, five day a week packages, each with three meals a day. Pricing is around $35 to $175 and there’s no contract involved. More info at eattheveggie.com. “Everything is full prepared, so all the client has to do is reheat and eat,” Mason says. “We try to make the service as convenient as we can for people.”
The Veggie’s delivery service usually averages around 200 meals a week. They have three employees. According to business development manager David Daniel, The Veggie, which also involves catering and private chef services, grossed more than $250,000 in just under three years.
In early 2021, the business is upgrading to a new location, at Huntsville arts center Lowe Mill, address 2211 Seminole Drive. They’re going into the space next to Pizzelle’s Confections most recently home to the eatery Happy Tummy, which is relocating to another Lowe Mill space.
There, The Veggie is transforming into fast-casual restaurant, called The Veggie Quick Service Café. The menu will boast an array of vegan sandwiches, bowls and wraps, as well as daily specials. On Saturdays, there will be an all-day vegan brunch. Menu items will range in price from about $8 to $15. And yes, they’ll continue to offer their prepared meals. The space’s interior will feature vibrant colors, open-kitchen and seating for around 25 guests. They’re aiming for a grand opening around Feb. 20.
“I think my mom would be very happy where the business is,” Mason says. “She always told me if I started the business, she was going to be my prep cook, my sour chef. I think she’d be right there in the trenches with me.”
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