Minglewood Brings Plant-Based Comfort Treats to Richmond

by | Nov 29, 2021 | EAT DRINK

Whether you’re a Deadhead, someone who sticks to a strictly plant-based diet, or just a lover of tasty baked treats, you’re sure to appreciate Minglewood Bake Shop, who’ve just opened up in Carytown in the former home of iconic music store Guitar Works.

There’s a new bakery in town, and its name just might sound a little familiar to local Deadheads. Minglewood Bake Shop in Carytown borrows its name from the song “New Minglewood Blues” by The Grateful Dead, and once you step inside, it’s clear that owners Chris and Shannon Sheehy are Deadheads themselves, even naming their daughter after the Dead song “Corrina.”

Opened in honor of their daughter, who goes by Cory and has always had a passion for baking, Minglewood helps give an option for dessert fans who follow a plant-based or vegan diet. Even the coffee and tea options provide plant-based milk options, such as almond or oat milk. The idea to open up a vegan bakery was pretty straightforward – the family has been plant-based for roughly 26 years already and wanted to open one up for their daughter, in addition to providing a plant-based spaced for vegans or folks in the area with allergies. 

“That was one of [Cory’s] passions,” said Shannon Sheehy. “Every week we would bake something at home and take it in to show her friends in her team sports. She has always been interested in baking, and naturally it was vegan. It’s just been kind of fun to share it with people — and nobody knows it’s vegan, or really cares.”

The Sheehys figured, why not now? After looking around for spaces, they found a building that happens to be very special not just to their family, but to many old-school Richmonders. 

Locals will also recognize the specific building Minglewood inhabits as the former location of long-running Carytown music store Guitar Works, which the Sheehys have paid tribute to in the cafe area with a sign and guitar from the former shop. The Sheehys actually have a connection with Guitar Works’ former owner, Brian Medas; they have been close for a long time. His daughter Maria taught Cory guitar and voice lessons, and their son took guitar lessons as well. 

“When they showed us this building, we were like ‘Oh my god yes’,” said Sheehy. “When we contacted Maria and told her that we were leasing the building [she said], ‘Oh my god can I come work for you?’ And we said of course you can. It’s taken us a year to get here because they have been renovating the building. New floors, electrical, everything, getting it up to code, because the building is 100 years old. We’re finally here.”

Everything in the shop screams “Old Richmond” – from the Guitar Works shoutouts to the styling of the shop interior, and even an upcoming rainbow cookie dessert which will make Ukrop’s diehards pretty happy. They very much wanted a relaxed, comfortable vibe when folks came into the shop, and it’s safe to say that they succeeded.

Whatever your sweet tooth is craving has a high probability of being on the menu. Tiramisu, rocky road fudge, sweet or savory pies, even ice cream floats and milkshakes round out the menu to help fulfill any sweet desire you may have. Pup cups are available too, so your corgi doesn’t have to feel left out. 

“We don’t advertise that we’re vegan because it shouldn’t matter,” said Sheehy. “We’re a bakery, and we just happen to not use animal products. People who want to know will ask and have their mind blown that everything is vegan, down to the sprinkles.”

No, sprinkles are not inherently vegan — but the sprinkles you enjoy in Minglewood are actually imported from Canada, where this seemingly innocuous topper of our childhood baked goods is finally available in a vegan version. 

“A lot of sprinkles and different kinds of candy, any kind of ‘shiny’ candy, has confectioner’s sugar on it. [Confectioner’s sugar] is derived from shellac, which comes from insect shells,” said Sheehy. “There are so many things that aren’t vegan, and it’s just silly that they have these things in them. Sugar is another thing that you don’t think about not being vegan. Most sugar companies filter their sugar through bone char. Domino’s sugar has various factories around the country, and the one on the east coast does not use bone char, so we get our sugar from the Domino’s factories that don’t use bone char in order to make it as vegan as possible.”

Sheehy mentioned other things that you sometimes forget aren’t vegan, such as marshmallows; they sell vegan versions of these in-house, in Minglewood’s small retail area. In addition to doing their best to provide as inclusive of a menu for guests who are vegan, plant-based, or just have specific dietary needs, such as gluten free, from their diets, they also try to sell what they can in this retail section, including a selection of teas — a product that is generally vegan, as long as honey is not added to the product.

In addition to providing a welcoming space for various dietary needs in their retail section, they are also trying to help provide a space for fellow local businesses such as Dayum this is my Jam, which they are excited to be selling in-house. 

Naturally, putting the menu together is probably one of the most fun parts of running a cafe. Most of the items on the menu are either classics, such as brownies or cookies, or things that Corrina just enjoys baking, such as sweet and savory scones or cakes. She also wants to cater to kids, especially as someone who grew up plant-based herself, so that they don’t miss out on those special little things that make childhood, well, sweet. 

“There are certainly things she never got to have because you could never find it vegan anywhere,” said Sheehy. “Unless I made it from scratch at home, she just didn’t get it. So it’s really important to her that kids can come in and look at the glass and see something they want and they can have it, because it’s all vegan. Can you imagine not having sprinkles on your cupcake as a kid?”

They are very cautious to take all allergies into consideration, and in fact all of their baking is done with oat milk. They have also begun the process of wrapping gluten-free items separately from the rest of the items for sale. 

Another note that will make vegan folks happy, honestly, is the pricing in the cafe. Oftentimes there is a price hike the moment that something is plant-based, or uses a dairy alternative such as almond or oat milk, which can make a vegan lifestyle less accessible. Patrons will be happy to notice that the pricing in Minglewood is no higher than the non-vegan cafe down the street, helping to make plant-based options easier to obtain, whether you already enjoy them or have always been curious. 

Of course, you couldn’t have a bakery this time of year without some of the classic seasonal flavors we have all come to love and crave the moment the temperature starts to drop. Whether you can’t wait to engulf yourself in peppermint swirls, or make gingerbread your aesthetic for the month, Minglewood promises to not only have some special flavors for the holiday season, but also for every season as it comes. 

“That’s a big thing for us is really wanting to be seasonal,” said Sheehy. “Next June when strawberries are in season we’re going to have a lot of strawberry things coming out.”

Minglewood Bakery is located at 3337 W. Cary St in the old Guitar Works building. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 am to 6 pm. For further information, please visit their Instagram account.

Ash Griffith

Ash Griffith

Ash is a writer and improviser from Richmond. She has a BA in English from VCU and an associates in Theater. When she isn't writing or screaming on a stage, she can usually be found wherever the coffee is. Bill Murray is her favorite person along with her black cat, Bruce.

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