TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Early last month, twin sisters Brittany and Justine Soto set up shop at Peekskill Brewery to sell their homemade vegan doughnuts.
The pop-up shop was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but a line of customers formed outside the South Water Street brewery about a half-hour before opening. By noon, the Mohegan Lake residents had sold all 500 or so of their baked goods.
“I’m always surprised by how the community just comes out and supports us. It’s really amazing,” Brittany said. “We didn’t think we were going to sell out that [early].”
The sisters, both 2006 graduates of Yorktown High School, formed Peaceful Provisions in 2015 and started selling their vegan baked goods at TaSH Farmers Market (Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow). Two years later, they found a home in First Village Coffee in Ossining.
For about a year, the Soto sisters made and sold their vegan doughnuts in the Ossining cafe before pursuing an opportunity to open their own storefront in Brooklyn. When that plan fell through, the sisters turned their attention back to Westchester, renting a kitchen space in Tarrytown.
“We’re Westchester natives, and just living here we know that there’s not a lot of [vegan] options available,” Justine said. “We’re kind of excited at the opportunity to be back here. So, we’re trying to figure out how to incorporate more events in Westchester and collaborate with other local businesses as well.”
Growing up, the twins sometimes made meals and treats for friends and family. Their love of food continued into adulthood, as Justine would make baked goods for co-workers and Brittany studied baking at Johnson & Wales University.
Despite their knack for creating delicious treats, they resisted calls to go into business.
“We’re pretty shy people,” Justine said. “We baked for friends and family, but other than that, it’s scary for us to put ourselves out there. So, I think we resisted for a long time.”
About five years ago, the twins were living on opposite ends of the country. Justine was working as a dietician at a long-term care facility in the Bronx while Brittany was working at a restaurant in San Diego.
Taking time to re-evaluate her career, Justine flew out to San Diego and visited Brittany. There, they spent time in Brittany’s kitchen, cooking together once again.
“It was just a nice moment,” Brittany said. “We were separated for about two years. So, we kind of came back together and we were working in the kitchen together.”
Brittany credits her sister with “opening her eyes” to vegan options. For her, it was love at first bite.
“When I was getting my training, I wasn’t vegan,” Brittany said. “So, I learned the traditional way with butter, eggs, everything like that. It wasn’t until Justine came out to San Diego and exposed me to the vegan scene that I was like, ‘Wow this is actually really good.’”
What started as a soul-searching trip for Justine ended in a new career path for both of them.
“We reached a point where we were in the kitchen and we were like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ We love working together and creating great food,” Justine said.
Justine convinced her sister to come back home and Peaceful Provisions was launched. They started selling at the TaSH Farmers Market as well as at some vegan markets in Brooklyn.
The sisters developed a following in the city, where they described the vegan scene as “a little more up-and-coming and more accepted” than in Westchester.
Brittany recalled a moment at the Tarrytown farmers market where they were selling vegan baked goods and a young girl asked her mother if she could try their s’mores brownie. The mother told her daughter, “It’s vegan. You’re not going to like it.”
However, moments later, the skeptical mother returned and tried the brownie for herself before purchasing it for her daughter. Peaceful Provisions gained a new fan that day.
“Scenarios like that make us so happy,” Brittany said. “That’s what we want to do. We just want to be able to show people it’s delicious, it’s good.”
At the March 3 pop-up shop at the Peekskill Brewery, there were many non-vegan eaters among the hundreds of customers, who traveled from all over the Hudson Valley and New York City to get their hands on some of the sisters’ baked goods.
“Being in Westchester, when we first started offering our doughnuts, that’s what I was scared about: What non-vegans would think of our product,” Justine said. “And to see so many people say that it’s one of the best doughnuts they’ve ever had, vegan or non-vegan, that’s amazing to me. At the end of the day, we’re here to kind of change people’s perceptions and open their eyes to vegan options.”
Either in the city or in Westchester, the sisters try to hold at least one pop-up shop per week, typically on Saturday or Sunday. They are working to introduce Wednesday night pop-up shops for people who work on the weekends.
They held another pop-up shop on March 30 at the Peekskill Coffee House. They are returning to the Peekskill Brewery on April 13.
Peaceful Provisions, which has more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, changes its menu with each event.
“We get bored pretty easily, so we like to change it up,” Justine said.
The March 3 menu, for example, featured chocolate almond doughnuts, cinnamon sugar doughnuts, cookie dough doughnuts, maple pecan doughnuts, plain and almond croissants, and strawberry jam hand pies.
On March 30, they sold mixed-berry doughnuts, peanut butter-chocolate doughnuts, triple-decker brownies and peanut butter-and-jelly bread pudding.
Hoping to last beyond noon, they limited customers to just six items each at the latter pop-up shop.
“At this point, we don’t have the luxury of having a retail storefront where you could have 12 different options,” Brittany said. “Because we’re traveling with the doughnuts, we kind of keep it to like three or four doughnuts. We try to have varieties, because not everyone likes a lemon curd, not everyone likes strawberry. We try to see what’s in season as well.”
Though their doughnuts do not contain dairy, eggs or other animal products, Justine, who is a dietician by trade, said there is a common misconception that vegan means healthy.
“A lot of [vegan] options are very healthy for you,” she said. “But with our doughnuts, we’re approaching it with the mindset of a very traditional doughnut. We want it to be as close, as similar as possible to what you experience on a non-vegan doughnut.”
Though the doughnuts have no cholesterol, they are made with sugar and flour and fried with canola oil.
“I always feel weird when people find out that I’m a dietician and that I make doughnuts,” Justine said. “At first, people are like, ‘Oh, that’s such a good thing, you know, vegan and dietician.’ I’m like, ‘We make triple-decker brownies and filled doughnuts.’”
While they enjoy doing pop-up shops, the sisters said, they are actively looking at retail spaces in Westchester.
“We have this roller coaster journey right now,” Brittany said. “At one point, we were like 90 percent certain that we were going to have a storefront in Brooklyn, then at the last minute that fell through.
“It just has to feel right,” she continued. “It’s like getting a home. It’s got to feel perfect for you. Our eyes are more geared toward Westchester at this point.”
In the several years since Peaceful Provisions launched, the sisters said they have noticed a shift in the way vegan food items are received in Westchester, typically in the southern part. Northern Westchester, where they both live and have worked, has been a bit slower to catch up.
The sisters are happy that vegan baked goods, once a foreign concept for many, are now being embraced by residents in their home county. Working at First Village Coffee in Ossining, Justine said, “It really opened our eyes to the fact that vegan options are severely lacking in this area and people really would love to have options available.”