Clare-Marie is the owner of Vishcake & Vibs, an independent plant-based food business which popped up in Castle Quarter Norwich last month and has just reopened. Here, she explains her plant-based plans
New independent food shop, Vishcake & Vibs opened in Castle Quarter almost exactly a month to the day, selling a range of plant-based dishes to cook at home, including vegan friendly fishcakes and ribs and lots more. Owner Clare-Marie Heapy was the first tenant to sign up to Castle Quarter’s new pop-up shop scheme, which aims to give specialist independent businesses the chance to open in a high footfall city centre location, under a short-term flexible lease.
Local people may recognise Clare-Marie’s name from the former Little Vegan Butcher store, which traded on Rose Lane earlier this year. She launched the food business after quitting an 11-year career as an NHS radiographer, and previously ran a business with her husband, providing on-location catering for the local TV and film industry – it was at that time she spotted a growing demand for high quality, interesting, plant-based foods.
Clare-Marie says: ‘My new pop-up is named after my two best-selling products, vegan fishcakes and ribs. The name reflects what I have become best-known for.’
Everything is made fresh and by hand, and it offers lots of gluten-free dishes too, a dietary need that Clare-Marie spotted wasn’t being met by other meat-free brands. ‘We’re just making sure that everyone has got something.’
Vishcake & Vibs opened just over a month ago. Clare-Marie says: ‘We did a launch with Hench Herbivore. He came and officially opened the shop and that weekend we sold out,’ she says, before adding: ‘Our BBQ vibs and vishcakes sell out every day.’
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks after opening, Clare-Marie was involved in an accident and was unable to open the shop for another couple of weeks, but she says: ‘I’m just getting back into it now.’
Vishcake & Vibs reopened at the weekend and the good news is the seitan steaks are back. ‘Saturday was the first day, and we almost sold out (I went home with a couple of pain au chocolats!), but the vibs and vishcakes and seitans, including the smoky v’acon, all sold out. Everything has a ‘v’ in front of it!’
Clare-Marie is passionate about talking to people about the benefits of eating plant protein and showing that it can quickly and easily become part of your daily diet. And she is very keen to spread the message that plant-based does not equal bland.
She adds: ‘The health benefits are becoming more widely understood, and we encourage anyone who is curious to give our dishes a go. I want to make it super easy for people to find delicious switches. Whether you’re someone who takes part in meat-free Mondays or wants a veg packed midweek meal, we have lots of flavorsome foods to pick from. I love helping people dip their toe into a plant-based diet, widen what they’re eating and prove that there are exciting, flavorful products out there.
‘We use only the best locally sourced ingredients. Nothing is batch made, nothing is bland, and everything is made by hand, so it’s super fresh when you serve it up at home. If you want to freeze it for another day, you can.
‘Some people question whether it’s an expensive way to eat, and of course, we’re all watching our food bills rise. I’m conscious of that, so we aim to keep our prices on a par with the supermarkets and as affordable as we can.’
And while it’s a fresh start with a new name and location, it’s also a fresh start for Clare-Marie as she steps out on her own as a one-woman business owner. ‘I originally set up the business with my husband, but it’s just me now. I’m throwing everything into it.
‘I’m a small business, with no big marketing budgets, and a tiny team, I do pretty much everything myself. I never thought I would have the chance to open up in such a high-profile location, but the team at Castle Quarter have been nothing but supportive. It’s the best move for my business, right now.’
She adds: ‘I don’t want too much food waste, I’ve signed up to Too Good To Go, and all our packaging is ecofriendly – it’s trying to keep that ethos.’
Plus, Clare-Marie reveals: ‘As of next week the shop will look all Christmassy – customers will find Wellingtons, roasting joints, Christmas puds and yule logs.’ The pop-up will be at Castle Quarter until December 29. After that, Clare-Marie says: ‘Watch this space.’
Vishcake & Vibs is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am–4pm. and is located next to Grape Tree and opposite Starbucks on Level 1 of Castle Quarter. Follow on Facebook for the latest information about promotions and seasonal specials.