Leaving Eden (or, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green)

eden - enter as strangers

Welcoming sign at eden-a vegan cafe in Scranton, PA

Scranton, Pennsylvania is a rather unlikely place to find a vegan restaurant.

I didn’t realize how strange that combination was more than two years ago, when I happened to be in that northeastern corner of my state during a business trip.  All I wanted was a vegetarian-friendly restaurant where I could go for dinner after a long day of driving and presentations.

That job was goddamn hard, one of the most difficult and emotionally-draining ones I’ve ever had. The kind that would get worse before it would never get better. I needed a friendly face and comfort food in more ways than one.

Eden a vegan cafe (6)That was November 2011. I can still taste my magnificent Fun and Green Burger and Homemade Smashed Potatoes. To this day, it remains one of the best meals I’ve ever had. (See my Weekend Cooking post: “a birthday celebration of (and novel inspiration found at) eden-a vegan cafe.” An update to that post: my very brief return to meat-eating ended almost immediately afterwards. In fact, I’ve been more interested in veganism ever since. Call it the Eden Influence.) 

This week, eden’s owner Christian posted a poignant, heartfelt Facebook post:

“It is with a very heavy heart, but a clear mind, that I must inform everyone that eden-a vegan cafe will be forced to close it’s doors very soon. The state of the economy, and in particular the state of the economy as it has affected Downtown Scranton, has made it increasingly difficult to continue to run the restaurant in such a way that is sustainable. This is certainly not a matter of choice, it is a matter of circumstance and if there was anything else I could do to keep it going, I surely would do it. In fact, I have been doing everything possible for some time now to keep it going, but I simply have nothing left to give at this point. I have truly put my heart and soul, my blood, sweat and tears, into what we have been doing in this space for the past 5+ years. I would do anything I could to keep it going, and I have been doing that, but the time has come to begin to wrap it up unfortunately.

With that said, I am listing the business for sale, so it might be possible that new owners that have the time and the capital to invest in taking eden to another level will come forward and do so. If that happens, it would be a wonderful thing. As one man who is the father to a growing 10 year old girl, I am simply spread too thin personally and financially to make it happen myself. I would welcome new owners who could do it with open arms. We will see what happens. I need to step away and into a new chapter of my life, one where I can provide for myself and my daughter, and do so in a secure, sustainable way. The food business is a difficult business, and it’s just not providing for us at this point, so I must move on. I have no other choice. Trust me, I have done everything possible to hang on but I can no longer do so.

I know this will cause a great deal of sadness in the local community as well as the vast vegan community, but instead of being sad that it is coming to an end, I would invite everyone to join me in being glad that it happened at all. We served 100% vegan food in Scranton for more than 5 years, touched so many hearts, opened so many minds, and educated so many on all things vegan. That my friends will live on through all of you forever and for that, I am so grateful. I am so very thankful for the opportunity that I had to bring this to all of you. It’s been an amazing ride, truly living a dream, a dream to spread veganism and compassion and healthy living to my hometown area. I have met so many wonderful people through eden, so many that I consider lifelong friends, and it has been a pleasure to serve and to know each and every one of you. I have been invited to speak about veganism on local television programs, to colleges and universities, high schools, elementary schools, churches, health clubs, large and small businesses, and all sorts of various groups at all sorts of various events. I will continue to make myself available to do so, even after eden’s days are done. Veganism is bigger than eden and I will continue to answer questions, give advice, speak to groups, and do anything else that I can possibly do because this is my passion and my purpose. That part is not ending, it is simply changing.

Of course, as things continue to evolve and take shape, we will inform you about it here, as always, because we truly feel like you are all friends and family to us and you all have been a big part of all of this. I want to thank everyone who has ever worked at eden, or lended a hand in any way at any time, your service has been invaluable and your friendship is treasured. I know I speak for many more than just myself when I say it has been a pleasure to spend time with all of you in this special little space of ours on Adams Ave.

We will continue to serve you delicious vegan food with a smile for the rest of this month of January, and possibly a bit beyond that. We are taking it day by day right now. So come on in and get as many eden meals as you can, as our days are numbered. Spread the word that the business is for sale too, it will be listed on the market soon, because who knows, maybe someone will step in to keep it alive. Anything is possible, I know this because against all odds, I have been running a beloved vegan restaurant in Scranton for the past 5+ years. I love you all and I thank you for everything.”

The outpouring of support and heartbreak for the possible closure of this little restaurant has been overwhelming. Sure, you can say that this is just a restaurant … but it’s not. As I wrote in my original post, eden is “this magical place where you can absolutely walk in as a stranger and walk out being Facebook friends with the college student ringing up your order.” 

And the person having lunch at the next table. And the owner. All true for me. And the welcoming faces and friendly soul I needed.

I live six hours away from eden, so it’s difficult for me to just stop in. And that’s incredibly sad. For me, because of when I discovered them, this closing is about more than just the food.

If they close, I will mourn their loss as much as if I had eaten there every day.

I say if because I’m encouraged that there might be some possibilities in the works to save eden. There is talk on the Facebook page about potential angel investors and partners, about vegan food trucks, about … who knows. Miracles have been known to happen. Someone might know someone who knows someone …. I know that Christian is interested in any and all serious offers and is willing to discuss details, so if that’s of interest, get in touch with him on the eden-a vegan Facebook page.  I mean, if I had the ability to be an investor, I would absolutely do so. (Despite never having worked in a restaurant in my life, one of my fantasies during my unemployed days was opening an eden branch here in Pittsburgh.)

If you’re in the Scranton area or relatively close by, I encourage you to visit eden soon (like, by the end of this month) to enjoy their food. They’re at 344 Adams Avenue. Tell your friends, too. Even if you’re the most die-hard meat eater (before eden, Christian was a deer hunter), you’ll love this place.

Oh, and if you go?

Make sure you have a bowl of Smashed Potatoes for me.

UPDATED 1/12/2014: An indiegogo campaign has been launched to try and save eden-a vegan cafe. To contribute and learn more information, click here.

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One thought on “Leaving Eden (or, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green)

  1. Beth F

    I hardly ever get over to Scranton — and it’s more than 2 hours away — but if they stay open, I will try to make the effort to sit down and have a meal there.

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