The shelves of Bibles next to aisles of activated charcoal powder, cashew cream, agar agar sea vegetable flakes, Minit-meat and vegan gelatin may seem unrelated. But at the Adventist Book Center and Vegetarian Food Outlet, the diet lifestyles of Seventh-day Adventists closely relate to the religion — and has since the church’s inception in the mid-1800s.
Seventh-day Adventist John Harvey Kellogg, famous for his development of breakfast cereals at the turn of the century, was a health pioneer in manufacturing vegetarian products like Worthington, Loma Linda and Morningstar Farms, which still remain today.
Outlet Store Manager, Herman Schreven, said guidelines were set by the church to avoid meat — as well as caffeine and alcoholic beverages — but are not doctrine.
“These (vegetarian products) are comfort to (church members),” Schreven said. “It’s what they know. Even for those who left the church, they still come back here for this food.”
And for those searching for health, not religion, Schreven said the dangers of meat is apparent through disease, cholesterol levels and animal-injected growth hormones.
“It’s a matter of education,” he said. “The landscape has changed. Leaving religion out, the vegetarian lifestyle is the way to go.”
For a large number of ABC and Vegetarian Outlet visitors, religion is not part of their visit. From agnostics to New Age shoppers, Schreven said 30 percent of store visitors appear to be non-religious, while a large amount stem from other religions.
“My single obsession has been to make this a friendly, neutral store,” Schreven said. “We are here to serve. When someone walks through the door, we don’t talk doctrine and we don’t talk religion.”
While shoppers of other faiths could turn to other specialty stores or frozen grocery store sections, as some did following a 2008 fire that heavily damaged the bookstore inside the Upper Columbia Conference headquarters, Schreven said the outlet still holds the local lead on vegetarian food due to price and availability.
“Our cost is lower than everyone else’s,” he said. “We buy food service packages and (during sales or in bulk), customers can save 40 percent over grocery prices.”
Despite $1.7 million in sales last year, the store made $7,000 in profit.
“We sell so close to cost, so there is not a whole lot of profit,” Schreven said. “We want to bring the best value to our customers.”
And as Schreven is one of those vegetarian customers, he said his main reason for eating vegetarian is due to the brutal treatment of animals, not his religion.
“And of course, there’s feeling light and energetic,” he said.
Special orders and food requests can be made and shipped from Portland and Seattle distributors, including natural products, from soap to hemp protein.
“When people want to make the transition, we want to be here for them,” Schreven said.
The Adventist Book Center and Vegetarian Food Outlet is located at 3715 S. Grove Rd., off exit 276, for Geiger Field.
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