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Local restaurant promotes healthy lifestyle

Though it’s surrounded by a pizza place and a hamburger joint, the little yellow building that houses a vegetarian café and health food store doesn’t go unnoticed, not even by meat lovers.

But Squeaker’s isn’t just a place to eat veggies.

“It’s mainly about animal rights,” said Heather Andre, the owner. “I’m an animal rights activist. I don’t believe in killing animals for food, because there are lots of other things to eat without eating meat.”

Upon entering Squeaker’s, any animal lover may be turned off to the idea of eating meat.

A little table in the middle of the café holds a variety of buttons that read, “Meat is Murder,” “Don’t Breed or Buy While Homeless Pets Die” and “Kiss Me, I Don’t Eat Corpses.”

“We’re here to educate people,” Andre said.

Andre, being a vegetarian since the age of 16 and a vegan for almost six years, wanted to promote health, as well as environmental and ecological awareness, which remained her inspiration behind Squeaker’s.

The cafe, named after Andre’s “true vegetarian” guinea pig, Mr. Squeaker, has been serving customers for only four years.

With some experience in small business ownership from her arts and crafts store and landscaping business, Andre decided to open Squeaker’s in downtown Bowling Green.

However, Squeaker’s was her first attempt at a vegetarian café and health food store.

“I’m self-educated,” she said. “I’ve learned most of this myself through years and years of reading about it and studying it.”

With Bowling Green’s downtown newly renovated, it seemed like an attractive location.

“University towns are usually very popular for vegetarians, too,” she said.

While there are many vegetarian cafes, Squeaker’s remains one of the few vegan restaurants in the country, according to Andre.

Some of the tasty treats on the menu include organic fruit juices, smoothies, taco salads, meatball subs, avocado bagels, veggie chili, sloppy Joe’s and B.L.T.’s.

It may sound like a pretty meaty menu and the taco salad may fool any meat eater into thinking they’re eating ground beef.

But it’s actually vegetarian chili, which is dehydrated vegetable protein with the texture of ground beef, according to Andre.

With only four part-time employees, Andre and her staff prepare all the food.

“Almost everything is homemade, besides the fake meat products. The tofurkey and the pastrami and cheeses come from a company that makes those,” she said. “But we make all our soups, salads, desserts, baked goods and specials.”

A master’s candidate in vocal performance, Jane Leathers, has been a regular customer for two years.

“Their blueberry smoothies are really good, because all they do is take the fruit and some apple juice, put it in a blender and that’s the smoothie,” she said. “It’s really healthy and students need to eat healthy, because they go through a lot of stress and strain in school.”

Leathers also prefers the taco salad.

“It looks like there’s ground beef in it but there’s not. It’s soy vegetable and that’s so much better for you, because you don’t get any cholesterol and that’s what so many people in America are having trouble with,” Leathers said. “Their arteries are getting clogged with animal fat.”

And many professionals agree.

“Vegetarians have been reported to have healthier body weight than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels and lower rates of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and prostate and colon cancer,” registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Cynthia Sass said in an article found on the American Dietetic Association Web site.

However, even chocolate lovers are taken care of at Squeaker’s.

Whether it’s the “Explosive Espresso Chip Cookie” or the dairy free and gluten free chocolate bars or the vegan marshmallows, people with a taste for sweets aren’t forgotten at Squeaker’s.

But Leathers doesn’t just go to Squeaker’s for the food. A healthy lifestyle involves more than just eating right.

“They also have shower water purifiers. They’re little shower attachments that you put on your shower head and it takes all the chlorine and fluoride out of the water,” Leathers said. “So, you can take a shower in pure water, which is good for your skin and your hair.”

Inside the café the walls are lined with abstract artwork done by college students as well as posters promoting ways to care for the earth and animals, a piano in one corner, a pool table in the middle and statues of animals placed on some of the booths.

While some simply come in to munch on a tofu wrap or an avocado bagel, others just stop by to pick up essentials.

Inside Squeaker’s is a full grocery store, books, buttons, jewelry, T-shirts and even organic socks.

Many customers come in to pick up vitamins, herbs, food supplements and dietary products, as well.

“We have eco-friendly cleaners, which are environmentally safe and don’t have toxic chemicals and we have cruelty-free health and beauty products, which are not tested on animals and do not contain any animal ingredients,” Andre said.

In addition to the café and grocery store, Andre currently has plans to open a vegan bakery inside to add to the store.

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