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Photographs by Larry Heng
A favourite Toronto vegan brand has landed its first location. What started as Sausage Party six years ago has evolved into Aunty Em's Deli & Coffee shop today. Emily De Beus, founder and owner of the brand is overwhelmed with the success of what was once just available as a pop-up delicacy.
Originally from Australia, De Beus first lived in Vancouver until she settled down in Toronto. Starting as a dishwasher at 15, she has been in the food and hospitality industry most of her life. De Beus' cooking skills combined with her experience as a vegetarian turned vegan, inspired her to create Sausage Party. All items are made in-house out of seitan, a plant-based meat substitute comprised of gluten. "We just started as vegan comfort food, hotdogs and burgers and then during the pandemic, we evolved quite a lot into more deli meats and charcuterie," says De Beus.
Sausage Party began by making its appearance at breweries and festivals. As the demand continued to grow, so did the menu items. De Beus acquired the now storefront in the fall and was using it predominately as a production facility hosting pop-ups once in a while, "eventually this kitchen space opened up which had a perfect production kitchen for Sausage Party and this great storefront, and so, Aunty Em's was born," says de Beus. A new mother, the name of her store derives from her title as the famous aunty Em to her twelve nieces and nephews in Australia.
Officially opening on June 3, all pre-packaged Sausage Party items as well as hot food, coffee and sweets are available. Some of the Sausage Party goods sold are vegan bacon, hot dogs, burgers, sausages and an array of cheeses. The hot menu contains comfort classics like the Reuben Wrap, an Italian sandwich with mortadella, the Cubano and a breakfast sandwich. Several of the many sweets include tiramisu, London fog cake, mini cheesecakes and rotating classic muffins, all vegan, of course. Aunty Em's uses Java Roasters, a beloved female-owned coffee brand based in Toronto. The coffee program is a stamp card system, so buying nine coffees gets you the tenth one free!
The storefront is a burst of colour, with all sorts of nick-nacks decorated around the space. De Beus very much wants her store to be identified as an independent place owned by a person and not a corporation. With vintage decorations, some of which pay tribute to where she is from, what's not to love?
When asking about goals for Aunty Em's, what seems most important is its role within the neighbourhood. "I would love to have aunty Em's become a real pillar of the community. We want people to come here and feel safe and be able to find the food they want to eat," says De Beus. The staff is expanding on a continuous basis, which is something that still feels surreal to her. Sausage Party is available in thirty retail stores across Ontario and De Beus hopes that they can continue to make their way into more stores, hearts and stomachs.
Aunty Em's is located at 1672 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6N 1H8. Open 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Thursday to Saturdays and 10 a.m. - to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Aunty Em's is delighted with its welcome from the community. If it's to take something to go, grab something hot, or simply for a coffee, you must stop into Aunty Em's to say hello.