When Jamie Lynn slid into Sugar Taco’s DMs in the summer of 2020, she was looking for more than just a new fulfilling career. She wanted to take a leap of faith. She’d never tried the food at Los Angeles’ popular vegan Mexican spot but felt an “intuitive urge” to reach out and ask if she could get involved. Fast-forward three years and Lynne was not only helping co-founders Jayde Nicole and Nia Gatica Campos open a third Sugar Taco restaurant in Long Beach, but she was also spearheading its sister deli and market, The Plant Butchers.
“I had been in real estate for over 10 years, but I wasn’t fulfilled by it,” Lynne tells VegNews. “In a very LA fashion, I asked the universe to point me in the right direction. I wanted to figure out where I could be of the most service while pursuing my passions, which included animal rights and veganism.”
The vibrant, colorful social media posts from Sugar Taco caught her eye at just the right moment. Nicole and Campos were closing out their final investment round for a second Sugar Taco location. Lynne invested and became a co-owner of the new Sherman Oaks location. Now, Sugar Taco has three locations; the third spot in Long Beach opened in the summer of 2023, alongside the new deli venture, The Plant Butchers.
“Thankfully when I tried the food [at Sugar Taco], it was delicious and exceeded my expectations,” she says. “Providing delicious vegan food, saving animals’ lives, and working alongside a team of amazing women is such a rewarding experience.”
The Plant Butchers
A women-led vegan venture
Both Sugar Taco and The Plant Butchers are entirely women-led ventures, each of which is not only run by women but financially backed by women, too. This is still a unique finding in the business space. In the US, nearly 62 percent of investors are men. According to one study by BNY Mellon, this is partly due to a lack of confidence. Its research noted that only 28 percent of women feel confident about investing money.
“So often women are overlooked as investors,” Lynne says. “It is refreshing, empowering, and exhilarating to be a part of a company that recognizes the value and importance of including women in business.”
Sugar Taco and The Plant Butchers ‘are changing a paradigm’
To learn more about these two vegan, women-led brands, and their missions to build a new future of food, check out our chat with Lynne below.
VegNews: You joined Sugar Taco in 2020, how did your journey with this brand lead you to The Plant Butchers?
Jamie Lynne: When Jayde and Nia had the idea to open a vegan butcher shop and deli, I loved the idea and wanted to be involved. I grew up in northern New Jersey and “deli” is basically a food group there. I was excited we would be creating vegan versions of the food I loved so much from my childhood.
VN: The third Sugar Taco spot opened in August 2023, and then The Plant Butchers followed in the same Long Beach location in October 2023. It must have been an exciting few months! What can customers expect to find at these restaurants?
JL: Both share a gorgeous patio adorned with hanging flowers and bright colors. The moment you walk through the patio entrance, you are transported to a tropical paradise where you can lounge in comfy chairs, sip on a massive variety of margarita flavors, and enjoy a vegan feast from either or both restaurants (no judgment!).
VN: Plant-based butchers are becoming more popular, but it is still such a unique concept. How is the food at The Plant Butchers different from many of the vegan meat products in grocery stores?
JL: Our meat alternatives are made from whole foods. Many meatless proteins sold in grocery stores are heavily processed and can contain harmful additives. We are changing a paradigm. Typically, vegans would not be able to eat anything at a deli or butcher shop but now everyone can have a deli counter experience.
VN: You spoke about growing up eating deli meat. For so many people, animal products have strong childhood and cultural ties. How do you create plant-based alternatives that still resonate with traditions?
JL: Nia was born and raised in a Mexican household. Being vegan wasn’t easy for her because family members would say, “You’re Mexican; you can’t be vegan and eat our food.” She knew that wasn’t true and wanted to create Mexican street food recipes for Sugar Taco with zero cruelty. At both restaurants, we love veganizing cultural recipes and showing people that they can still have all their traditional foods made plant-based, with all the flavor (or even more).
VN: And it’s so much better for the planet, too.
JL: Both brands believe great food and great ethics go hand in hand. Not only are the menus eco-friendly, but the tables, chairs, glasses, and decorative items are secondhand or reusable. Produce is local, organic, and imperfect. We have also partnered with 8 Billion Trees and Food For Life Global where sales from the menu go to save trees and provide plant-based meals to hungry kids around the world.
“To make the most impact, the plant-based industry must continue to work together to shift the entire food industry. Leaders and innovators across all industries are coming together, and that is how we can change the world.” —Jamie Lynne
VN: Both The Plant Butchers and Sugar Taco sound like they have much more growth ahead of them (and even a new Sugar Taco cookbook is hitting the shelves in April 2024). How do you envision each of these brands evolving in the future?
JL: My first initiative after joining Sugar Taco was to create a food relief program. We donate food to those in need including the houseless community, a shelter for women, and children impacted by domestic violence. We plan to continue this initiative and expand our reach. Both brands would like to meet the needs of customers who don’t live near our locations by selling our foods directly to customers and in retail.
We also eventually hope to expand to more locations in other areas of the country. With that said, I want to acknowledge that many vegan restaurants all over the country are struggling in this economy and many have been forced to shut down. It is a critical time—vegan restaurants need the support of our incredible community more than ever.