Thanks to one scary experience, Charles Anderson decided to make a life change—no more meat. He and his wife, Nikki, were on their first date eight years ago at a steakhouse. In the middle of eating, Anderson passed out and was taken away in an ambulance. After a day of testing, doctors couldn’t figure out what had happened, but Anderson was convinced his body had been reacting to the meat.
“That incident really made me take a look at how I was treating my body, and I decided to go vegetarian that day,” Anderson says. Shortly after, both he and Nikki decided to take things a step further and become vegan. A year after that, Anderson says he lost nearly 70 pounds, was running five to 10 miles a day, and had more energy than he’d ever had before.
After their positive experience, Charles and Nikki wanted to bring healthy eating options to locations where they weren’t available. “I believe that these options need to be available everywhere—not just in the inner city of big towns,” Anderson says. So in the fall of 2013, the Andersons purchased Peoples Organic in Minnetonka. They followed that up by opening locations in Fargo, Eden Prairie and Wayzata in 2014.
The restaurant has become a staple of healthy eating not only in the lake area, but also around the Twin Cities. With its homey café feel, Peoples Organic makes you forget that it’s a local chain that was opened by Lynn Gordon, who also owns French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Minneapolis and St. Paul, in Edina in 2010.
“I felt there was a need for an organic Starbucks, where I was a regular customer,” Gordon says.
She wanted a spot that featured healthy, organic options. Her entire food philosophy is rooted in using high-quality ingredients that are good for both people and the environment, and she wanted the same thing for Peoples Organic. “I believe if people eat organically, it is better for the Earth, and better for our bodies and health,” Gordon says.
The menu features meals for any time of day. It was originally built around breakfast foods, as Gordon wanted to feature coffee, but she also wanted a wine and beer selection, which led to lunch and dinner menus. Selections range from tofu scrambles in the morning to a variety of vegan or non-vegan wraps and sandwiches for lunch, to farm-to-table options like a bison burger or veggie burger for dinner. The common thread is that ingredients are local, organic and sustainable.
The concept was a perfect fit for the Andersons. Having grown up in the franchise restaurant business, food has always been a passion for Charles. “My wife and I started eating at the Peoples Organic in the Galleria when it opened because it was one of the few restaurants in the Twin Cities that offers high-quality vegan options,” Anderson says. “When I found out they were open to franchising, it was a natural fit.”
As vegans, the Andersons understand healthy eating, but they don’t push their lifestyle on customers. There are plenty of responsibly sourced meat dishes on the menu, and they understand everyone’s food journey is different.
The Andersons are, however, a perfect example for families curious about a vegan lifestyle. Not only do Charles and Nikki eat vegan, but so do their kids, Perla, 4, and Finn, 2. “People are always amazed when they see our kids chowing down a kale salad,” Anderson says. “But they love it and they actually choose eating real food over processed [food]. We keep things really simple and just cherish eating food in its natural state.”