Drivers stopping by the Tanforan Shell station in San Bruno, California may be in for a shock. When they enter the convenience store looking for beef jerky and nacho cheese Doritos, they will find 100% plant-based offerings. This city of 43,000 about 12 miles south of San Francisco seems an unlikely site for North America’s first 24/7 vegan convenience store, Hangry Planet. It’s part of the fun for owner Bobak Bakhtiari. The actor and philanthropist talked to Inhabitat about this intriguing venture.

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A plant-based food market storefront

Inhabitat: When did you open Hangry Planet and how has the customer reaction been so far?

Bakhtiari: April 2022. Delightful confusion is the common response to the realization that this isn’t just another mindless junk food festival of a C-store. The reaction has been mostly positive and also sporadic confusion as to why a C-store would care to be plant-based. “Feel beautiful not junky” is our motto which embodies health and animal welfare. 

Related: Vegan Fried Chicken is exploring new ways of yummy

Inhabitat: Why did you choose San Bruno for your location?

Bakhtiari: I own the site which consists of a car wash and Shell station. Hangry Planet  is the C-store. I took over the site about seven years ago from my father when he retired and rebranded the C-store a few months ago, replacing all core vendors.

A convenience market with a sign that says "Feel beautiful, not junky"

Inhabitat: Do most of your customers go out of their way to go there because it’s vegan or stumble in because it’s convenient?

BakhtiariMostly high-traffic convenience at this point, but increasingly more and more customers are seeking out the store in the last month and buying larger amounts. I believe this might be because a plant-based C-store or market does not exist in Northern California. Also, on a side note due to beta tests, we don’t employ the term “vegan” so overtly as that distracts from the more relevant reality of fundamental yummy. We bedazzle taste buds, instead of launching one into a polarized battle arena with non-vegans.

Inhabitat: Any pissed off customers who were looking for 3 a.m. hotdogs and nachos, not vegan food?

Bakhtiari: Yup, this happens a few times a day and serves as an opportunity for advocacy and education, or a welcome to fervent rants, which we encourage and reward  with express car washes. Also, a comedic commercial titled “Where’s my Snickers at, bitch?” will be shot soon to address this recurring reality, possibly featuring Miley Cyrus, but it’s still in negotiations.

The outside of a carwash and a parking lot

Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about what makes your car wash so special.

Bakhtiari: It’s the world’s first media immersion car wash experience where five mapped projectors create an immersive visual (and self-care)  experience while a linked FM modulator provides an intimate audio experience inside guests’ cars (which contains music engineered at sound healing frequencies and linked up to the visuals). The goal is to free two birds with one stone: wash a car and provide a self-care pause in one’s day. 

Inhabitat: Can we kill the world with our cars while saving it by eating vegan?

BakhtiariYes there’s a nagging irony here, but I figure to focus on leveraging a high traffic compulsive junk food milieu of gas stations as a source of changing habits for the better (mitigating the world-killing is more of a viable approach than dwelling on the inherent irony present). Also, animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss. FYI, my supply agreement is up with Shell in about a year and I’ll be transitioning away from petroleum marketing.

The inside of a convenience market with a wall of drinks in refrigerators and stands of chips and snacks

Inhabitat: What are your favorite vegan snacks people can buy at the Hangry Planet?

Bakhtiari: Oh my, that’s tough. We’ve expanded snacks and drinks by 40% in the store in the last few months. Here are a few that readily come to mind: Why Bars (three hours of fuel), Go Max Go bars and Jokerz (yummy equals to Milky Way and Snickers), Chocolove chocolate bars, Koia shakes, GTS and Pink Lady Kombuchas and the Hangry Bliss sando (our Grab&go concoction featuring Beyond meat & Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar with Just Egg on a vegan croissant). All pastries from the Santa Cruz vendors, have Kerri Kreations and Black China Bakery, are insanely scrumptious. Hope that’s not too much!

Inhabitat: What else should readers know about you and your business?

BakhtiariDue to high volume inquiries of requests for help on plant-based meal planning, I set up Operation Animal Joy. The site is a source for plant-based meal planning, further education on factory farming and the science-based research of optimizing health through plant-based cuisineWe also have alliances with nonprofits and donate 10% monthly to a variety of global orphanage and educational projects via Moms Against Poverty, animal welfare via Animal Equality and Animal Recovery Mission, among other nonprofits listed here.

Images via Hangry Planet