Plant-based ice cream in Northeast Indiana? These vegan businesses will tempt you to eat healthier

Rural Indiana might not be the first place you picture food entrepreneurs launching vegan businesses. But these three companies in Fort Wayne’s regional cities will lure you into cleaner eating with their tasty treats, ranging from plant-based ice cream to vegan cheese and jerky.

Some have long attracted tourism as one-of-a-kind shops; others are just starting out. And together, they are making people more aware of healthy habits, providing delicious alternatives to traditional treats, and breaking down stereotypes associated with vegan lifestyles.

Here are three vegan businesses to watch (and enjoy) in rural Indiana.

Moo-Over Ice Cream

Julie Hurd, owner at Moo-Over Ice Cream, 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City.


Moo-Over Ice Cream in Columbia City is a vegetarian/vegan ice cream shop and the "only plant-based ice cream shop" in the state. Absolutely everything is made from scratch, 100 percent vegetarian, organic, non-GMO, and Gluten-Free.

The Banana Creme Tumbleweed ice cream dessert at Moo-Over Ice Cream, which is owned by Julie Hurd, 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City.

The shop's owner, Julie Hurd, previously worked in the healthcare field, taking care of the elderly when she decided to make a career change. 

"My background is in health, but one of my longest dreams was to go to culinary school," Hurd says. "I always wanted to open a candy shop or an ice cream shop." 

Moo-Over Ice Cream is located at 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City. 

After enrolling in a culinary course and several pastry and ice cream programs worldwide, from Michigan to France to Wisconsin, Hurd began honing in on the process of making ice cream. Specifically, she wanted to create an ice cream option that people with sensitive stomachs could enjoy. 

"I love ice cream, but ice cream doesn't love me," Hurd says. "I wanted to be able to make something that was still creamy, but not dairy."

Julie Hurd, owner at Moo-Over Ice Cream, 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City, helps the Girardot family select a flavor of ice cream.

With this in mind, she enrolled in a final culinary program in Texas where she learned how to create the creamiest vegan soft-serve ice cream, which has become a signature base for many of her creations. It is lactose-free, allergy-friendly, and vegetarian.   

After graduating from the program, Hurd returned to Columbia City where she began selling her signature vegan desserts at the local farmers market. 

Julie Hurd, owner at Moo-Over Ice Cream, 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City, helps the Girardot family select a flavor of ice cream.

The response was instant enthusiasm from customers, so Hurd knew she had to keep the momentum going. She bought a shop for her business at 207 W. Van Buren St. in downtown Columbia City. In many ways, she feels this shop is her opportunity to give back to the community that has encouraged her to live her dreams. 

"I really liked the feel of Columbia City," she says. "I love the community here, and the people here. They are so supportive, and there is so much potential for the town to grow." 

Individual Apple Pie dessert at Moo-Over Ice Cream.

Hurd has used her success with Moo-Over to support other local creators, too. She hired a local designer to create her logo, a local artist to paint a mural in the shop's bathroom, and she sells the stylings of TNT Floral Shop in Moo-Over's storefront. 

Hurd also sources the ingredients for her ice cream locally as often as she can.

Overall, she hopes Moo-Over will spread awareness of the vegan lifestyle in Northeast Indiana and show residents that the options are expanding for those who choose this lifestyle or who have food allergies and intolerances. 

Moo-Over Ice Cream is located at 207 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City.

At the end of the day, Moo-Over is pushing people out of their comfort zones to try healthier foods, not because of any political agenda or because Hurd thinks you have to be vegan or vegetarian, but simply because she believes healthier options truly can taste better.

"You need to try the food here because it is amazing," she says.


The Sassy Vegan 

Rachel Smith, owner of The Sassy Vegan, at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market inside the Lincoln Event Center at Parkview Field.


Moo Over isn't the only business making delicious vegan desserts in Columbia City. Rachel Lomasi, Owner of the Sassy Vegan, serves sweet treats, ranging from soft, decadent Peanut Butter Fudge to ooey-gooey S'mores Cookies.

Much like Moo Over, the Sassy Vegan has found success by participating in local farmers markets and partnering with businesses throughout the region. 

"The classics are my best-selling items," she says. "Chocolate chip cookies and puppy chow are often items that people don't realize can be made with vegan ingredients." 

Rachel Smith, owner of The Sassy Vegan, at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market inside the Lincoln Event Center at Parkview Field.

Lomasi may enjoy the classics when it comes to baking, but there is nothing old school about this powerhouse. She uses the platform she has built with her business to help educate Indiana residents on the values of a vegan lifestylewith a healthy dose of sass. Her products are 100 percent plant-based and free of gluten products (though the kitchen she uses is a shared space and is not Gluten-Free Certified, so her items are labeled "gluten-sensitive"). 

When it comes to the reasons behind her venture, Lomasi says it's ultimately about values.

"I am vegan by choice," she says. "Not only do I love animals, but I also believe in the economic impact that being vegan has on the world."

Pumpkin spice, snickerdoodle and caramel apple cupcakes from The Sassy Vegan, owned by Rachel Smith.

Even so, she doesn't expect everyone to become a vegan full-time. She simply wants to help those around her dispel stereotypes about the vegan lifestyle and learn different ways they can impact their community for the better by what they eat without sacrificing flavor. 

In doing this work, she is extremely particular about who she partners with to sell her products. 

"I vet every shop or event that I think I might want to work with to ensure they hold the same values as I do," she says.

A variety of baked goods from The Sassy Vegan, owned by Rachel Smith, during the Fort Wayne Farmers Market inside the Lincoln Event Center at Parkview Field.

She often shares her journey to continually learn and check her privilege beyond the baking world, too. 

"I know I am lucky, and I am extremely privileged to be able to work on a business that I love," she says. "A lot of that success is due to the support and encouragement of my Mama, Papa, and husband, Jeff. They were always in my corner telling me 'You got this,' and making me practice self-love."  

Baked goods by the Sassy Vegan, owned by Rachel Smith, at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market.

This support has turned into a growing business that shows no signs of stopping. The Sassy Vegan now works with Ft. Wayne's Farmers Market, in addition to a Columbia City booth, and actively partners with regional shops, including The Gallery in Columbia City and the Tazza Café in Fort Wayne. 

"I do appreciate the small town for when I first started the Sassy Vegan," Lomasi says. "It helps remind me where I come from, and I can bring more diversity to the town, alongside an awareness of different lifestyles."

Blonde & Brunette Catering Company

Chasity Bickel, left, and JoHannah Greene, owners of Blonde & Brunette CC Plant Based Cuisine at Memorial Park in Huntington, IN.


Another vegan force making waves in Northeast Indiana is Blonde & Brunette CC Plant-Based Cuisine, a vegan catering company whose owners are based in Huntington and Fort Wayne. The dynamic duo behind this company is Chastity Bickle (the blonde half) and JoHannah Greene (the brunette half) who have been friends for more than 15 years, each bringing their own unique skills to the partnership.

"JoHannah is more of a creative thinker and marketing person," Bickle says. "She does all the social media and planning out how we should advertise ourselves. The one common interest we both have is cooking. I am more of the numbers person focused on accounting and finances."

Chasity Bickel, left, and JoHannah Greene, owners of Blonde & Brunette CC Plant Based Cuisine at Memorial Park in Huntington, IN.
 
The pair has always loved cooking together and knows each other's strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen well. Before long, they found themselves making so much food together that there was enough to share with coworkers, friends, and family, so opening a catering business was an obvious choice.

Now, Blonde & Brunette caters food for events, like parties and weddings and has booths at area fairs, where their goal is to show people they can still enjoy food on a vegan diet.

"We are winning people over with their taste buds," Greene says. "By catering large events like parties and weddings, we help people realize they really can eat vegan food and be satisfied." 

Vegan jerky from Blonde & Brunette CC.

The pair says their most requested menu item is their special vegan cheese and jerky. But when you go to their Facebook page, you won't find any menus, and the reason is simple: They enjoy the challenge of tailoring their cooking to each client's unique tastes. 

"Our food is delicious," Greene says. "We make it possible for you to eat well and not feel like you are missing out on anything."

Vegan cheese sauce from Blonde & Brunette CC.