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The rise of Raleigh as a true foodie town has made it easy to find a satiating meal for vegans in an area where carnivores thrive. To clarify, a vegan diet totally eliminates any animal products. This means no eggs, no dairy, no animal byproducts. Did you know beer isn’t vegan? Along with white sugar, boxed cake mix, and Jello, to name a few.


Vegan Menus Abound

Finding a vegan meal in the land of barbecue is not as hard as you think.

Nestled at 555 Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh, Living Kitchen welcomes anyone for allvegan and some raw cuisine. The natural lighting underscores the freshness of the food, and you honestly cannot go wrong with anything on the menu. From the Mexican bowl to the salads, everything on the menu is tasty and healthconscious. I would suggest Living Kitchen for someone who is new to the vegan diet.


A true gem. With locations in Raleigh and Durham, Happy + Hale is easily accessible. I look forward to the weekends for their brunch menu. Sometimes, there is simply nothing better than a delicious avocado toast paired with a smoothie, or one of their cold-pressed juices. My favorites: the City of Oats smoothie or Beet It juice. The best part is that this breakfast is totally guilt-free.


The trendiest spot in downtown Raleigh, Raleigh Raw strives to provide healthy grab-and-go options as well as offering a variety of smoothies, juices, and coffees. Crack coffee, anyone? The owners are committed to a life of living well and making that lifestyle easy for all. They make most of their products in-house and provide exceptionally friendly service.

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On The FOOD Scene
Photo courtesy of NOFO @ the Pig


Tucked away on the outskirts of downtown, Hummingbird may be the most Instagrammable brunch spot in Raleigh. They aren’t open on Sunday’s; however, it is definitely worth the Saturday morning wait. Four words: coconut chia seed pudding. You are so welcome. The farm-to-table menu changes frequently so I suggest going there immediately for this, although I’m sure anything else they offer will be exceptional. They serve tapas-style plates that you can enjoy solo or with a group.


Irregardless is a Raleigh staple for diets of all persuasions, and the restaurant has been doing this since 1975. They offer an array of classics, such as paella and briskets for the carnivores in your life, but they also have an inventive menu for vegans and vegetarians. They’ve been setting the table for contemporary standards and food diversity across the ages, and they’ve built their menu with all diets in mind to ensure a sense of community is brought to their tables.


Fiction Kitchen focuses on locally grown produce, only relying on what is in season. Their dishes surpass any culinary boundaries, bringing healthy, meat-free interpretations to all manner of dishes, ranging from sushi and tacos to the Southern staple, “chicken” and waffles. Fiction Kitchen is 100 percent vegetarian with many vegan options.

I’m beyond impressed with the food scene down here in Raleigh. I only scratched the surface with these gems, but I’m so excited to fill my belly with more delicious spots throughout the city!

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Best Life

A slow, steady path to success has made Raleigh’s Matt Douglas an acclaimed soloist and session musician.

One supposes that Matt Douglas doesn’t often have the free time to reflect on his life and career. The multi-instrumentalist is prolific as a soloist and sideman, and has enlivened shows and recordings from the likes of Sylvan Esso, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Josh Ritter, as well as touring and recording as a full-time member of The Mountain Goats. Oh, and he’s also a father of three who operates a recording studio in his backyard.

To say Douglas keeps busy is an understatement.

Given a brief break from home duties for an interview, Douglas offers this. “It’s pretty much the best life ever.”

It is not, however, a story of overnight success. “It’s just been a slow progress over the years,” Douglas says. “It’s one of those things, when something would stop working or would just sort of end, I would just ease into something else.”

That journey has taken him from New York University, where he studied jazz and contemporary composition, to a sojourn to Hungary where he gigged and studied European folk music on a Fulbright scholarship, and finally to North Carolina where he’d initially bunked on his sister and brother-in-law’s couch while submitting graduate school applications.

“I had a more romantic idea of what I thought my life was gonna be like,” Douglas says, of his early academic ambitions. “I mean, my life has turned out to be a pretty romantic version of what I thought it was going to

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Living His
On The MUSIC Scene

be anyway. But at the time, I wasn’t sure. So I ended up deferring and then didn’t come back to it. I just got more and more entrenched into the music scene in North Carolina, which I didn’t really think was going to happen. I just started playing more and writing.”

That lead to his first major local outfit, The Proclivities, a jazzy indie-pop outfit Douglas formed with guitarist Chris Boerner and drummer Matt McCaughan. From there, Douglas formed The Small Ponds, a duo with alt-country icon Caitlin Cary of Whiskeytown and Tres Chicas. He also joined the jazz-fusion trio The Hot At Nights, with Boerner and drummer Nick Baglio. Finally, after working with the band as a session player and touring member, Douglas joined The Mountain Goats fulltime in 2016.

In the midst of all that, Douglas also became an in-demand session player and arranger, working with acts ranging from alt-country (American Aquarium, Six String Drag) to pure pop (Sylvan Esso, Brett Harris). He became a regular feature in Hiss Golden Messenger, and performed with singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, collaborated with Mount Moriah, The Rosebuds, Erin McKeown, and Nicolay. He also got married and started a family, with a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old twin boys now competing for time and attention, as well.

And still, in early 2017, Douglas found time to release his first proper solo album, Affirmation (with Discomfort) , a collection of layered instrumentals, recorded entirely with woodwind instruments, that ties together ambient composition and melodic jazz.

“When I’m making my own music, I don’t think too much about editing or censoring my aesthetic view of what I’m trying to do or the way I’m trying to do it,” he says. “But when you work with other people, I’m not trying to bulldoze it with Matt Douglas. I’m trying to find a way to serve the music and serve the song, and do it in a way that is not sacrificing any of my own creative integrity.”

It’s the variety of opportunities Douglas is afforded that fuels the creativity, which in turn builds the aesthetics he brings both to session work and his own projects. Lately, he’s been collaborating with his former bandmate McCaughan on layered and manipulated recordings—beds of found sound and ambient passages— on which Douglas will soon start adding saxophone melodies.

“I think this one rides the line a little bit more,” he says. “It’s still going to be tonal. There will still be melodies. But there’s going to be some interesting, uncomfortable stuff mixed in there with it. So it’s been fun to see how far you want to push that.”

But working without a deadline and at the whims of his own creative impulses gives Douglas a freedom he doesn’t often get in his sideman roles. But, at the same time, he’s not aiming to define his solo work in a realm of avant-garde experimentation or let his session work remain wholly separate and disparate.

“I’m trying to find a way to serve the music and serve the song, and do it in a way that is not sacrificing any of my own creative integrity.”

“I don’t want it to be a total black-andwhite, yin and yang thing,” he says. “I feel like I’m starting to blur the lines a little bit on both ends of it.”

Indeed, balance is a vital component of what Douglas aims to achieve, within and without the music itself. Juggling his roles as composer, performer, husband, father, and so on presents its own demand for creative problem solving.

“It’s been a pretty wild last few years, trying to manage all that stuff,” he says. “Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing a great job and sometimes it feels like we’re just making it work, just getting by. But overall, it’s been killer.”

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Millennial Magic

Convenience Redefined

This app could be the genie in the bottle for delivering all your late night cravings.

Winter, the season of Netflix and Hulu binging, is the time we often find ourselves curled up on the couch, decked out in pajamas, only to realize that our favorite snack is not to be found. No worries: goPuff, the delivery start-up that recentley introduced itself to Raleigh, promises to bring snacks and other convenience products to your doorstep within an hour. The goPuff service was founded by Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev, two former students of Drexel University, during their junior year. Gola was the only one among his group with a car and, after countless late night drives to convenience stores to pick up necessities for his friends, he decided to take matters into his own hands. The startup began in 2013 when Gola and Ilishayev would personally deliver products throughout West Philadelphia to the Drexel community. Now headquartered in Philadelphia, goPuff is on track to be serving 60 markets by the beginning of 2019, including Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Denver; Pittsburgh; and now, Raleigh.

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The best part is that goPuff owns the entire customer experience, with a warehouse in each market where they house all of the toiletries, snacks, and miscellaneous items—think some 3,000 necessities and craveables at your beck and call.

The goPuff business model totally eliminates the middleman that you would find with UberEats or Postmates, enabling the transaction to occur between your order and the deliverer. Also, goPuff does not surprise you with unexpected delivery fees that you would often find on competing services. (Many of us, myself included, would decide against an order if the delivery fee was more than the items purchased.) With goPuff, there is a flat $1.95 delivery fee for every order regardless of how much you purchase. The delivery service runs seven days a week from noon to 4:30 AM.

Some of the most popular products throughout the country, including the Raleigh market, have included Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Takis, Nerds Rope, Laffy Taffy (my favorite being the yellow one), and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Can you guess the most popular time

your community is requesting delivery? If you guessed between 9:00 PM and midnight, you are correct. This timeframe is universally popular across the board, and particularly on Sunday’s, which makes sense—the “Sunday scaries” have taken a real hold of us and the last thing we could muster any energy for would be going outside in the cold for a bag of Doritos. While they do not currently deliver alcohol in Raleigh, it is definitely something goPuff would like to offer soon.

If you haven’t downloaded the app, get with it. This convenience app was made by millennials, for millennials—and goPuff has truly restructured the meaning of convenience. Check it out: goPuff.com

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The Humanitarian Executive

A life of leadership and service—for Brenda Gibson, it’s as simple as connecting the dots between causes and contributors.

Brenda Gibson has a talent for bringing in money. She enjoyed a successful career, first in banking, then later in commercial real estate. But after years of cultivating business skills and contacts, she turned her attention to causes that could use a helping hand.

She has played a role in countless local fundraising campaigns, but two causes are especially close to her heart. She has served on the WakeMed Health and Hospitals Board of Directors for 10 years, chairing it for the last four. Prior to that she served on the WakeMed Foundation Board for 10 years and chaired that board for four years. Her other passion is Transitions LifeCare (formerly Hospice of Wake County) where she has served in various capacities for 20 years. Her work at Transitions resulted in the administrative building being named the Brenda C. Gibson Community and Education Center.

And, she’s still going strong, helping people in her community with important contributions that touch people’s lives.

I understand this area has always been home for you.

I grew up on a farm in North Raleigh. My first job was in 1970 when I was 14 and worked as a candy striper at WakeMed. My parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me. My mother grew up in Durham and had always wanted to be a nurse, but couldn’t get her nursing degree because she was working to help her family. She worked at Duke Medical Center for 17 years before moving to Raleigh to marry my dad. That may be where my interest in healthcare and helping others came from.

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Brenda Gibson, a long-time community leader and current chair of the WakeMed Board of Directors, received the Excellence in Philanthropy Award from the Triangle Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in November. Earlier in the fall of 2018, Gibson was named Humanitarian of the Year by the N.C. Black Women’s Empowerment Network (Photo: Heba Salama Photography).

Your early career started in the business world—with positions at Wachovia, BB&T, and Highwoods, which was led by your future husband, Ron Gibson, the founder and former CEO of Highwoods Properties.

After Ron and I were married, I remained at Highwoods until 2003, when I started a commercial real estate consulting business. In March 2016, I joined CBRE as a senior vice president in the brokerage division doing business development.

But you ended up changing the focus of your working life, right?

Since 2003, my life has really switched. I wanted to do more in the nonprofit world, giving back and raising money for different charities. I felt such reward from doing the charity work and that’s something that was instilled in me young. When I left [my career], I had the freedom that I could do other things. I think it was realizing there is more to life than commercial real estate every day.

You’ve been working on behalf of Transitions LifeCare for 20 years. What kind of work have you been doing?

Most of the time you’re out raising money, so the first thing you’ve got to do is feel good about the organization and support it yourself. I am very proud of the hospice work Transition’s does for the members of our community. Their leadership and commitment to people has made me want to be involved. I have served on the board, worked on the first Capital Campaign, which was to

Since 2003, my life has reallyswitched. I wanted to do more in the nonprofit world, giving back and raising money for different charities.

build the administrative building and the hospice home on Trinity Road. I co-chaired the second campaign to raise $6 million to add 10 beds to the hospice home. In September of 2017, they named their administrative building for me for all the work I had done for 20 years.

Your other main focus has been WakeMed. Tell me about that.

WakeMed has been an even bigger commitment and one that I am extremely passionate about. I’ve been on the hospital board for 10 years and chaired it the last four. I co-chaired the campaign to build the first children’s hospital in Wake County. We raised about $20 million. I moved to the hospital board in 2009. It’s a big time commitment but also very rewarding as I see how well the health system is doing operationally and in serving those in need. WakeMed offers the people of Wake County services not available anywhere else. It is the only Level One trauma center in Wake County, the only Children’s Hospital, Rehab Hospital, and more. We get the sickest patients, the accident victims, a large majority of the behavioral health patients, and we do the majority of the charity care in this community. In May, I will retire from all of my WakeMed responsibilities.

What is the secret to getting commitments for that kind of financial support?

Most people give to a charity they are passionate about or they are experienced with. With Transitions, there are a lot of people who have experienced hospice care in the home or at the hospice home. In 2012, my mother needed hospice care, and I became more passionate about it because I experienced it first hand. I may meet with community leaders, wealthy individuals, people who can give. Usually you want to meet with them face-toface, especially if you’re asking for a significant gift. I do try to narrow my asking to one charity a year. My husband’s friends would say, “Don’t answer the phone if Brenda calls!”

Why is it so necessary to have people like you and the people whose support you seek?

Because there are huge needs in our community that aren’t being met, and I know there are many in our community who have the ability to give. Having access to healthcare is a huge issue for many in the Triangle area and beyond. Health insurance costs are so high and people who purchase their insurance will sometimes choose a plan with a high deductible and when they have a healthcare crisis they have a hard time paying that deductible. There are needs for hospice care and some insurance companies do not have a hospice benefit. In the last couple of years I helped raise the money to start the first Pediatric Hospice in the

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Triangle area. Most children aren’t covered by a hospice benefit. A lot of these programs wouldn’t exist without fundraising. A lot of people think WakeMed is still the county hospital, that we still get money from the county, but we don’t and haven’t for more than two decades. There are so many services—like a behavior health initiative that I am working on—that we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for philanthropy.

You’re involved with another enterprise that is a success story both for an individual and for the community. You and your husband, Ron, opened Marta’s, a luxury women’s boutique, in North Hills. How did this come about?

I shopped with Marta Dziekanowska when she worked in Chapel Hill. I was one of her customers. My husband went to see her to buy me something at Christmas, and he was very impressed with her drive and initiative. She had immigrated here from Poland several years ago, and he just saw a real future with her. She wanted to have her own business, so she manages the store. Marta’s will be open two years on March 1st, but for me, the fun in this is not helping Marta in the store. The interest for me is how I can use Marta’s as a tool to give back. So, we have Marta’s Matters, which takes place on several shopping days each year, and in those events 15 percent of sales are donated to charity. We may have up to 100 people in the store across a four-hour time

frame and we provide the wine and hors d’oeuvres. Women enjoy the shopping experience while we are able to support several charities throughout the year. It is just one way we are able to give back. The focus at Marta’s is on the lady over 35 who wants to be trendy, comfortable and stylish. We have clothing and accessories, which includes handbags and scarfs, and we have jewelry. The women who shop in our store love shopping during the charity events, when they know they’re helping a worthwhile cause as well.

What do you do to relax when you’re not raising money?

There are so many services— like a behavior health initiative that I am working on— that we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for philanthropy.

I have way too much energy. I don’t sleep much. I work out a lot, I do Pilates at least two days a week and try to get in a personal training session or some kickboxing another day or two. I have two yellow Labradors—they are my babies! They get me up about 5:00 every morning. I’m in a book club and an investment club. I like to oil paint and actually have a studio at home, but lately that has taken a back burner. I go until at least 10 o’clock every night, always thinking about something. My husband says, “Your mind works too much, you need to calm down.” (laughs) I am extremely organized. That probably helps me the most. I feel great. A lot of that is because I stay so busy, positive-minded, love helping others, don’t watch the news, don’t worry about things out of my control, and I work out. That’s the key.

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