June 3 2009 12:00 AM


Health food haven closes on east side


The only strictly vegan and raw food restaurant in the Lansing area closed its doors this weekend due to slow business and will likely move to Ann Arbor this fall.

Magdalena’s Tea House, located along Michigan Avenue on Lansing’s east side, opened in 2004, but has operated on a shoestring budget and simply hasn’t done enough business to make it in Lansing, owner Miko Fossum said.

“The hardest thing has been enduring people’s responses, which is dismay, because (encouragement) is what has kept me going,” she said.

Fossum, 43, said she feels guilty about leaving Lansing, but she hopes that the move will open more people’s eyes to the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Magdalena’s mellow chandelier lighting, diverse color scheme and loose seating arrangement set it apart from the structure and routine of more traditional eateries. It combined the quality — and price — of upscale vegetarian cuisine with the laid-back character of a coffee shop. Most meals at Magdalena’s ranged from $7 to $12 and were prepared from scratch with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.

Magdalena’s began as an art venue, hosting bands like Frontier Ruckus and The Fabulous Heftones, holding poetry readings and posting local artwork. Gradually it began producing new perspectives on conventional foods, offering raw lasagna, nut shakes and desserts.

Such experiments culminated in the weekly “Five-Course Raw Food Feast.” Magdalena’s also promoted raw-food workshops and gave free advertising space for activist groups, food collectives and other grassroots efforts.

Fossum said she hopes to do well enough in Ann Arbor to re-open a music venue in Lansing. She would continue to offer vegan and raw food classes, catering, and food delivery. She can be reached at mikofossum@gmail.com.