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Shari Kalina: Owner of Pangea Vegan ProductsWhere is Pangea located (physically)?
We have a storefront in Bethesda, Maryland (just outside Washington, DC) at 7829 Woodmont Avenue.
When did you first open the doors?
In the summer of 1995.
Whose idea was it to open a vegan shop?
Why did you want to open a vegan shop?
I had been a vegan myself for several years and had dreamed of a place where vegans could shop for everything they need from shoes to shampoo to cookies without having to read labels and worry about ingredients. That place did not exist, so I decided to create it myself!
What was the response by the public when you first opened?
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When did you decide to go online?
About a year into it we realized this would be an important way to reach all the vegans across the country (and world!) who have very little access locally to vegan products.
How long did it take for the Online Store to get going?
We had an online catalog up for 2-3 years, but customers had to download an order form and mail or call in their order at that time. About 6-9 months ago we converted to a "shopping cart" format on a secure server so customers can make their purchases online if they choose.
What has been the general response from the vegan community to the online store?
People definitely appreciate the ability to order "right then and there" and to browse the online catalog whenever it is convenient for them (and place orders in the middle of the night, if they choose!)
Which would you say is more successful, the shop or the online store?
They are both important to our business in different ways. The web allows us to reach people who would otherwise have no easy access to us, but many people still like to be able to see and touch products for themselves, especially shoes. We get lots of customers who make the trip to the store from quite a distance (or who combine it with a sightseeing trip to DC!) just to try on shoes and see the products in person.
Have you had to expand at all to cover the demands of the online community?
Yes, we have definitely grown over the last few years, but it has been a real struggle. Most people don't realize how much work--and money (we're still in more debt to the bank than we care to mention!)-- is involved in running a small business, especially one with so specific a focus. We are getting there, though!
What do you find most rewarding about running Pangea?
Just being a part of the community, working with other vegans every day, and being able to offer an alternative to people that hopefully makes the vegan lifestyle easier for them to maintain.
What would you most like the public to know about you and/or Pangea?
We have a great new line of top-quality shoes, jackets and belts manufactured in England under our own label, which we are really excited about. We hope people will check it out!