Thursday, August 9, 2018

Interview with CINNAHOLIC's Founder: Shannon "Shanaholic" Radke


Hey Shanaholic! So like, is that your real name?

No, Shanaholic isn't my real name. I just thought it would be a cute spinoff and way to connect me with Cinnaholic.

If people ask YOU personally about Cinnaholic, what do you tell them? What was it like becoming a business owner?

It's been a fun growth process since we started in July of 2010. Originally, we started out as a small shop in Berkeley, CA. I was putting in long hours, blood, sweat, and tears and barely making ends meet for about three of those years. Since then, we've expanded to 20+ locations, hired a corporate team and partnered with some amazing people all over the world! These days, I am able to focus more on managing the brand and conducting training sessions rather than working in the actual storefront. It's been really fun being able to dabble in all aspects of the business throughout the years.



How many cinnamon rolls would you say you've eaten today? And in your lifetime?

Back when I was working in the store, I would eat them every day. I've narrowed it down to when I travel for store openings now. I test the rolls at each opening I attend to make sure the product tastes the same so that our customers have the same experience anywhere they go.



Where did the idea for a strictly cinnamon roll shop come from?

I used to be a hobby baker and would attend vegan bake sales for fun on the weekends. I started making these unique cinnamon rolls every time we would go to them to sell. We were running late one day and a friend of ours called and said that people were already waiting for us to show up to buy them! That's when it clicked that we might have a business idea. I really liked the DIY concept that Chipotle, Subway, and Starbucks were using, so we decided that sticking with one product and making it customizable was the way to go.


Are they rolls or buns?

I tend to call them rolls, but people use the two terms interchangeably all the time. Call them whatever you want, just don't call them Cinnabons! Haha.



Now, rumor has it that Cinnaholic is entirely vegan. Is this true?

We are! From the very beginning and it will continue to be an all vegan company for as long as we are a part of it.

Why don't you use the word 'vegan' in your store and in your advertising more?

We have a section on our website that addresses veganism and why it is important to the company and in general. There's a great little video on our page that's worth a watch if you haven't seen it! We also have a small sticker in each store that shows our products are guaranteed vegan-friendly for those who are looking for reassurance. I think we've created nice balance so that if you're vegan, it's not hard to find the information. If you're not vegan, the information isn't being shoved in your face.

Our goal is to get people to try our products. Whether they are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, meat-eaters, whatever. You can sit and talk to someone about the impact of veganism until you're blue in the face. You can recommend every book, podcast, documentary, etc to try and convince them that living a vegan lifestyle is more sustainable than not, and get zero response. In my experience, people need to be shown first-hand how easy being vegan is and how they don't need to "sacrifice" everything in order to do better. We try to convey this message through amazing tasting food.


Do you think your choice to not overuse that word (or really use it at all) has lead to a lot of your success? Did you consider naming it something else with the word 'vegan' in the advertising? What were some other names you were considering before landing on Cinnaholic?

We chose not to advertise the word vegan too loudly because we've found that even in 2018, there is still an unfortunate stigma around the word. Especially around baked goods. Some people see "vegan" and are hesitant to even try the product. You can see in many of our Yelp reviews that people are shocked to find out we're vegan after having had the product because it tastes so good. 

I used to have a blog that I did for fun called Confessions of a Cinnaholic. I was new to the vegan community at the time and that's really how I got my foot in the door with meeting people, finding out about vegan events and experimenting with baking. So, the name Cinnaholic essentially reflects that whole growth experience for me. It's also cute and sort of silly. And also true once you've tried our products :)

Any further thoughts on companies using the word "vegan" as opposed to "plant-based"?

I think the word "vegan" carries more of a weight to it. Eating plant-based is very different than living a vegan lifestyle. While eating plant-based is better for your health, it doesn't encompass the compassionate aspects of living cruelty-free necessarily. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people associate the idea of guilt, exclusion, and deprivation, when you use the term "vegan." Studies show that more people are willing to embrace a lighter term like "plant-based" to avoid feeling those feelings. The bottom line is to turn people on to the idea of switching from animal-based foods to plant-based ones. Whichever language helps get people there is fine by me. 


How much say do you have in each franchise, and how much of Shanaholic's touch do they all have at this point?

All of the locations follow a standard franchise agreement that the product and the experience should stay the same no matter which one you visit in the U.S. or Canada. That's what I spent years building, testing, and perfecting. We also understand how important it is to be creative and to thrive in the environment you work in each day though. This is why we encourage our franchise partners to come up with fun names for their rolls that reflect the community they live and offer local menus in each state that feature specialty items available exclusively in their areas. So, each store varies slightly and has it's own unique vibe. 


Do you have a favorite store?

Berkeley, CA will always be my baby. That's where Cinnaholic was born! As we expand, we've been able to add new things from equipment to fixtures to signage, which is exciting...so really every new store that opens is my new favorite as we continue to grow. 

 
Both screen-shotted from from Instagram 8/9/18! Brand New!

Do you have a favorite roll?

That really depends on my mood. Our house-made cookie dough is amazing so the chocolate chip cookie dough roll is a best-seller and a classic fav. I'm also really into our peanut butter and amaretto frosting right now. 


At the Berkeley shop, you had a wall full of pictures of famous people and musicians eating your cinnamon rolls. How do these people find out about Cinnaholic and who else has visited?

Both my husband and I grew up in the music scene. He was a touring musician in Germany, and I was a (goth) DJ/Programming Manager for a radio station back in the day, so we made a lot of celebrity contacts through our prior lives. We're so grateful to have been given the opportunity to have them post and advertise for us over the years. The vegan community is pretty tight knit and word of mouth travels fast. Being a specialty shop, we've sort of become a vegan tourist stop for people all over the world. 


A) Will there be more?

Yes! We just signed a major deal in Canada with 60+ locations coming! There are also several U.S. locations underway right now. Including a few in Concord and Walnut Creek, where I grew up, which is exciting!

B) Will they stay vegan?

Absolutely. As long as Florian and I remain part of the company, there are no plans to change that. 

C) What's next for Shanaholic?

Right now now, I'm having a lot of fun growing the brand, traveling the world, employing new staff, and opening people's minds up to the idea of veganism. Just trying to find a balance between work, family, and "me" time like everyone else I guess!


Editor's Note: This was an extraordinary opportunity to interview someone who once-upon-a-time served me an Old-School Roll at Cinnaholic's Grand Opening, and has now become an international restaurateur. 60 more locations?! Wow. I am so proud of you, Shannon. I am rooting for my other vegan restaurant-owning friends to reach such heights. (Looking your way Strong Hearts Cafe ;)
When my partner moved to California, we heard that Cinnaholic was going to open new locations, currently only having the one. She put the gears in motion to open one in Santa Cruz (little-known fact)! The time wasn't right, but sometimes we dream of what it might have been like owning our own store just down the Bay. 









Friday, December 1, 2017

Remembering a Friend Part I

Remembering a Friend

This morning on my way to school, on came a song that I remembered first hearing in the dorms. Freshman year at SU, I made friends with a lot of people from our sister school, SUNY-ESF, and Lary Reeves was one of them. He was THE punk on campus, having the hugest mohawk, and crustiest patched pants anyone had ever seen. I went to his dorm to screen-print patches for our jackets. This was a punk right of passage, and I was stoked to finally be learning how to do it myself.
While we were doing “crust punk” stuff, his roommate was listening to pop-emo stuff that I liked. I was afraid to ask him what it was for fear of being judged by the Crass and Black Flag-listening Lary. Well, I did, and I found out the band was Northstar.
After doing our punk thing, I went back to my dorm, promptly hopped on Kazaa and downloaded the Northstar album. It was pop and emo and awesome. They ended up on the ipod that I still have today, and they came on this morning for the first time in years.
I started thinking about that roommate of Lary’s and wondered how he was doing. I thought to myself, “How cool it would be to reconnect.” Then I laughed. I never learned this kid’s name. I haven’t talked to Lary in almost a decade. Such is the nature of college. It is four years together, making some amazing memories, and then onward.
Lary is doing well (I know from his instagram where he shows the insects he studies for his job back in Gainesville, Florida). He has 100 thousand followers, and to me, that’s an indicator of him being happy (doing something that the general public thinks is really cool...so he must think it’s cool and have a good time doing it...right?). Regardless of whether that is actually true or not, I sure hope he’s doing well. I’m the type to check-in on people as often as I can, so maybe we’ll talk sometime soon. But, his freshman year roommate? From 2002-2003? Yeah right! He is one of one of the people I am sure I’ll never talk to ever again. It’s actually only one-degree of separation, and I could find out his name from Lary I guess. Am I going to make the effort? Honestly, I’m kind of interested in doing this now. Maybe thank him for unintentionally showing me Northstar. It would be interesting to see what he’s doing. Maybe back home where he came from? I actually think he may have been from China. So that would be cool if he was back there after studying in the US! Either way, he’s one of about four-thousand Freshmen that year at SU and ESF. We shared the campus with another twelve-thousand Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors and Grad Students that year also. Then the next class of 2003-4, who had thousands of new Freshman, some who I ended up befriending as well.
Nick, Billy, Nicole, Andrew, Kevin, Kyle
College Roommates on Graduation Day 2006

Did I ever meet everyone? Nope. Did a lot of our paths cross? Well, if we met through mutual acquaintances or roommates or classmates in August of 2002, and went to school together until June 2006, it could be likely we at least passed each other on campus a few times.
This essay isn’t actually about these folks though. It is about the people who meant something to me during college. People who I still consider my true friends. Freshman and Sophomore years were spent in dorms, where you become friendly with everyone on your floor at the very least. I remember some of my floormates, but keep in touch with nearly none. Maybe a few via social media. But Junior and Senior years, when I had my own house with seven-eight other mates, we made some serious bonds. I keep in contact with many of them, and miss one of them, dearly departed, during this month of November.
Kevin Pieluszczak was someone I met Freshman year. We both went to hardcore shows and were both vegan straight edge, so we ran in the same circles. When choosing where we’d live off-campus Junior year, we decided to shack up with a bunch of friends on a street about a mile from campus. It was Kevin, Nick Ryan (who later opened Strong Hearts Vegan Cafe), and myself on the second floor. Other friends on the first and third. I like to think our floor was the coolest and most fun.

The three of us all actually grew up in Central New York. We didn’t know each other previous to SU, but had a lot of mutual friends and ended up creating a space in our house for a lot of the non-student hardcore and punk kids to come over and hang out. We ended up having potlucks every Sunday night. A LOT of people will remember these, as we must have had over fifty of them over the course of those two years in that house. They were very memorable, and led to a lot of shenanigans either afterwards or during.
Kevin and I shared a number of different kinds of relationships, including one based on our animal rights activism. We did various forms of demonstrations, and trained some extreme tactics (like tree-sits) where we repelled down huge drops, trusting the other to hold our ropes and prevent us from falling. That’s trust man. We also got into a little trouble together, but this essay isn’t about that either ;)


Bridge Repelling
Kevin: "Let's get this set up safely"
Me: "Thaaat's a long way down"

In 2009, after I moved to California, Kevin took a road trip out here to visit me. The sadness and significance of this trip was that it was near the end of his life. He had been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, and was slowly losing his battle with cancer. I feel weird saying that this was his “final” trip to see the country, but with the way things ended up turning out, it actually was.
He visited right before Christmas. We stayed at my new place in Santa Cruz for a few days and explored. These were my “younger” days where staying up late was still a thing, and our relationship was one where our best mischief was had in the midnight hour. One night after a late night walk down the closed Santa Cruz Wharf to hang with the sea lions, he mentioned to me how his back was hurting more than usual and he was about to use up the last of his medication. He had three days until it ran out, so he said he would have to leave very soon to get back home and take care of things back in Syracuse.
This is a 3,000 mile trip and wasn’t something someone in his position had to do alone. I had just got first California job at Gold’s Gym Santa Cruz. What ended up happening? That was a no-brainer; I quit and took a trip with my brother.


This trip home was quick, but epic. It was one of many of my cross-country trips, and will be remembered as the quickest. We booked it from Santa Cruz to Syracuse in three days, sharing the driving, downing Rockstars, and making it back safely to take care of business. I remember really liking his Matisyahu cd, and he gave it to me. I jam that bad boy to this day. It reminds me of him.



To Be Continued...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

PlantBuilt Vegan Muscle Team Competition 2017

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Torn hand from bar muscle-ups in Men's RX Event 4

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Pistols in Men's RX Event 2

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Alternating Pistols

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Awkward Pistols

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Medicine Ball Squats

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 60lb. medicine ball squats

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Deep Squats with Medicine Ball

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Endless Rope Machine

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Video of Endless Rope Machine

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Injury from Bar Muscle-ups

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Pistols while trying to show the V-GUN gang sign

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 pistols off-balance toward end of workout

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 GANG SIGN V-GUN POWER

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event Pistols executed as RX

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Nailing one-legged squats

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 Endless Rope segment 

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 One-legged squats

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 2 checking with judge about reps

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 4 rope climbs

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 4 rope climb descent

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 4 bar-muscle-ups

PlantBuilt CrossFit Team Billy Prusinowski at ATX Throwdown Competition in Austin, Texas - June 2017
Men's RX Event 4 mid-way through bar-muscle-ups