SRYBB In Denver Specializes in Plant-Based Baked Goods and Vegan Chorizo | Westword

New Queer-Owned Plant-Based Food Retailer Is Dishing Out Baked Goods and Vegan Chorizo

"Plant-based meat does not mean that you have to stop eating all the meat you want. But just try it. Give us one shot and you’ll be sold.”
SRYBB's chili oil focaccia has been a hit.
SRYBB's chili oil focaccia has been a hit. Pinery Labs Photography - Andrew Minder
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“We realized life is very short. Life is hard,” says Spencer Young, co-founder of SRYBB, a new plant-based food retailer specializing in delectable sweet rolls, vegan chorizo and savory focaccia that was born from a pandemic pivot. “Here’s this catalytic event, and so let’s just try this thing that’s always been in the back of our minds for over a decade and just give it a shot.”

“It was realizing what was important to us and wanting to pursue what we were passionate about," adds co-founder Brandon Bishop. "And it always came back to making food and bringing people together.”

Neither Young nor Bishop has a professional culinary background, but for both, food played an important role in their family growing up. “My grandparents and dad actually worked in restaurants, so I was always fascinated about how they were able to throw these things together and create this final product,” Young notes. “I just fell in love with [cooking] when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, watching the Food Network. Ina Garten, Guy Fieri really stick out. You know, the classic mid-2000s.”

Despite having an interest in the culinary arts, Young ended up working in psychology. “I guess it was fear," he admits. "You hear a lot of things about how much hard work [food service] is — the hustle, the stress, the pain and a lot of horror stories. And so I think I just let the fear control me, which led me down the more traditional route.”

After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in psychology, Young worked at Boulder Community Health in the behavioral health unit, conducted clinical research in suicide prevention for veterans, then worked at a medical tech company until the pandemic.
click to enlarge two men in black aprons
Spencer Young (left) and Brandon Bishop in the kitchen.
Pinery Labs Photography - Andrew Minder
For Bishop, food was always central to bringing people together. Growing up in a large Mexican family as a military kid, the holiday season has always held a special place in Bishop's heart as a time to reconnect with family over a large dinner table.

In high school and college, Bishop worked at ice cream shops, hot dog stands and even a fondue restaurant as a host and event manager before moving to the Mile High to get a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Denver and working for various nonprofits including the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and Warren Village.

The two met in August 2017 through Tinder and then “just had a lovely, messy, gay friendship thing happen” laughs Bishop. “We dated for a little bit, then we didn’t date, then we became friends.” After seven years of friendship, they’ve seen each other through their best and worst moments. "We met when we were both 22, and now we’re almost thirty,” Bishop notes.

When the pandemic hit, both became burned out in their careers, and Young turned to their go-to stress reliever: cooking.  Because Young is vegetarian, they like to re-create popular dishes using plant-based alternatives.

While Young is a stress cooker, Bishop is a self-described stress eater. As part of each other’s quarantine pods, it became a routine: after a grueling, stressful day at work, Bishop would drive from Boulder to Young’s apartment for the treat of the day. Although Bishop does eat meat, they both enjoy a plant-based diet, so it was a perfect match.
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SRYBB's classic cinnamon rolls.
Brandon Lopez
Slowly the conversation around starting a food business became more and more serious. “Spencer always wanted to have their own restaurant. I love bringing people together, I love throwing parties. ... Why don’t we start a restaurant or a bar to bring people together and to give them this amazing food?” Bishop says.

They decided to call their concept SRYBB (a combination of their initials) and dreamed of opening a vegetarian restaurant — serving “coastal Mexican fused with southern Texas decadence," Bishop says — that would also be a community space celebrating the trans and queer community in Denver.

After sitting down and crunching the numbers, they realized that dream would require $173,000 in cash for a $500,000 total project cost. “Basically we went all the way from a full-blown restaurant to just maybe a nook, then maybe a food truck. Here we are, our two-person partnership operating out of the commissary,” says Young.

“We just thought, we’re not professional chefs, we’re not trying to convince anyone that we are. This is just something we’re passionate about, so let’s start small. Let’s menu-test. Let’s build up a good following and a dedicated customer base that believes in us,” adds Bishop.

When Young was laid off in January, the friends decided to officially take the plunge in a 50/50 partnership, with Young focusing on recipe development and kitchen production while Bishop heads up business administration. SRYBB got its license in May and took its first order on September 5.
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Bishop and Young preparing cinnamon rolls in the kitchen.
Pinery Labs Photography - Andrew Minder
The business’s revenue stems from three main channels: 50 percent from pop-ups, 30 percent from catering and 20 percent from website sales. "It feels like all the aspects of our business are growing appropriately and now our biggest problem and our biggest fear is how do we maintain our growth," Bishop says.

SRYBB is constantly testing different items to see what customers want. “We really thought the cinnamon rolls and sweet rolls were going to be our biggest sellers, but people really love the chili oil focaccia, the vegan mochi brownies and the plant-based chorizo," notes Bishop.

The chorizo was a recipe developed during the pandemic. “One of my core memories growing up is waking up in my nana’s house on Saturdays and Sundays, and she’s in her pink robe cooking chorizo and eggs,” says Bishop. When they tried to re-create that memory using store-bought soy chorizo, it “became more like a paste. Let’s just say [it was] inedible.” Bishop's chorizo is made with mushrooms and tofu, and there are no preservatives or additives.

“The mushrooms are finely chopped, it’s all done by hand, which makes it labor-intensive, because if it goes into the food processor, it’s a little too fine and you lose some of the meatiness,” Young explains. “In conjunction with the pressed tofu, you get a lot of that moisture out where it crisps up and comes together, so the mouthfeel is incredible.”

Bishop and Young are so confident that the SRYBB plant-based chorizo is superior that they are seeking an angel investor for the product. “Ideally, we would love to expand to our own mini-factory. That way, we can stock it in grocery stores,” Bishop says. “We’re hoping to find an angel investor who believes in the product and can help us professionalize our packaging, hire more people to create it, expand our marketing and then help us expand our partnerships with local businesses. I think our dream would be that every restaurant in Denver that offers a plant-based meat alternative goes to SRYBB first.”

Future plans include the development of plant-based versions of carne asada, al pastor and char siu. It’s an ambitious plan, but the two co-founders are all in. “It’s really exciting, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of hours, there’s a lot of stress, but it’s just been awesome,” says Young. “It’s just so great providing food for folks in our community."

Adds Bishop: “Don’t be afraid of plant-based meat alternatives. When we do pop-ups, there are lots of people who are skeptical. Men, I’m looking at you. Trust us, we worked really hard on this. Plant-based meat does not mean that you have to stop eating all the meat you want. But just try it. Give us one shot and you’ll be sold.”
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