Now served at Made in KC cafes across the metro — from the brand’s popular marketplaces to the new Outta the Blue oasis and downtown trolley cafe — vegan goods from Mattie’s Foods arrive on plates thanks to growing hunger for more healthy options, as well as the wholesome ingredients of a community-built business.
Between forming such significant partnerships to temporary store closures, the past year has been a journey in discovering what is truly important, the sisters behind Mattie’s Foods shared.
At the top of their list: giving.
“People think that when you’re building a business, you have nothing to give. But we’ve found out that when you give during the dry time, the abundance will come back later. Once it leaves our hands, it turns into a seed; and then that seed grows into something bigger. … It is like the story of the Mustard Seed,” shared India Monique, who opened Mattie’s Foods Sept. 26, 2020, hand-in-hand with her older sister, Arvelisha Woods.
Parable of the Mustard Seed
In the Gospel of Matthew, the writings compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a grain of mustard seed. Mustard seeds are smaller than all seeds, but when it is grown — it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, where all the birds come to sit on its branches.
“Even when we didn’t have a lot to give, we gave because — that’s our mom, that’s our grandma,” Woods added, noting that Mattie’s Foods is named in honor of their late-grandmother, Mattie.
Click here to read the backstory behind Mattie’s Foods.
As the duo approaches the one-year anniversary of opening Mattie’s Foods’ premier storefront on Holmes Road, they plan to celebrate in a way that gives back to the community, they said.
“The one-year anniversary will be along the lines of giving because we are in this position as a result of people showing up, faithfully — and bringing their family, friends and neighbors,” Woods said.
In December 2020, the sisters launched their 12 Days of Giving campaign — giving every customer a free dessert, side or sandwich with their order. On their final day, everyone who ordered meals for the holidays received a $20 gift card to Mattie’s Foods, they recalled.
“How did we do that? I can’t believe we did that,” Woods said in awe to her sister. “That was definitely a highlight.”
Through giving, they’ve planted seeds throughout the community — growing their team, customers and presence. The diversity of their supporters has been one of the best parts, the duo noted.
“It has been overwhelmingly awesome to see the elderly from our community coming in and being so open-minded,” Woods shared. “Our grandmother died because she didn’t have the resources to eat healthier, so to see others in their older age take advantage of this one restaurant, it’s just been amazing.”
“We’ve also seen so many young, Black men bringing in others to try our food,” Monique added. “Our culture at Mattie’s is for every walk of life. … We are going to keep pouring into this community, and they keep pouring into us.”
Toward the end of July, Mattie’s Foods closed for two weeks because of two positive COVID-19 cases at the restaurant. Supporters of Mattie’s Foods responded with their own generosity.
“While we were closed, we had people donating — saying that they just wanted to show us some love,” Woods said. “Those are the things behind-the-scenes that mean everything to us. We didn’t give them anything, and they still donated. It really warms our hearts.”
Click here to check out the menu at Mattie’s Foods.
Becoming a Made in KC staple
One of the seeds Mattie’s Foods sent out reached the perfect person: Elisha Howard, who serves as the cafe director for Made in KC — a curator and retailer of Kansas City-made products with shops, cafes and marketplaces across the metro.
“Alicia connected with [Mattie’s Foods] and brought sandwiches back to the office on various occasions,” said Keith Bradley, co-owner of Made in KC. “… Since we got into the cafe business back in 2017, there’s been this growing request for more options that check the boxes of vegan and gluten-free.
“… They’ve been in our six cafes for three-to-four months now, and the response has been really strong for our customers,” Bradley continued. “They are really creating an enjoyable food experience — even people who are not vegan or gluten free, and that really speaks to the quality of their work. As we open more cafes, we’re going to incorporate Mattie’s into what we do.”
The outreach from Made in KC earlier this year came as a surprise to the sisters, they said.
“It was like God was preparing us for the next big step,” Monique said, explaining that the partnership allowed Mattie’s Foods to expand its team and provide the sisters with more time to get back on the road with their food truck — a significant piece of Mattie’s Foods initial journey.
Mattie’s Foods on wheels is set to serve up the sisters’ vegan eats Sept. 3 during First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts Districts, as well as Oct. 9 at the Midwest Soul VegFest.
“We absolutely love working on the truck, and we didn’t even realize how much we loved it until we were no longer working on it,” Woods shared. “You meet so many other small business owners and get to hear their stories. And we love getting out there and sharing Mattie’s with more people. Hopefully we can get into some space where there’s still a vegan desert. Mattie’s hasn’t even scratched the surface!”
To stay up-to-date on Mattie’s Foods, follow their Instagram.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.