Planthropie Cheese and Dessert Shop is Michigan’s First Plant-Based Cheesery  

Jake Newby

| 6 min read

A Planthropie vegan cheese box.
Michigan’s first and only plant-based cheesery was built on the belief that food is medicine. Planthropie – located at 135 Pierce St. in Birmingham — believes food should nourish and provide energy, rather than siphon energy from the body and serve as a catalyst for health problems.
But by no means is taste, flavor and decadence sacrificed in the name of health at Planthropie, where customers can have their cheese and eat it too. Artisanal cashew cheese flavors like white truffle, fig balsamic, garlic noir and aged dill get gobbled up by the flight at the Birmingham cheese and dessert shop, almost as fast as Planthropie’s vegan mini cakes.
“We just want to give people an opportunity to explore new ways of doing things and eating. If you’re a foodie and you love food, you’re going to love this,” said Planthropie owner Rua Francis Oshana during an interview with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Even if it’s not something you incorporate (into your diet) every day, it might open you up to new experiences.”
Vegan cheese from Planthropie.
Planthropie may not be here today to wow guests with its array of plant-based cheeses, desserts, and liquid dessert drinks if it weren’t for a maternal health issue Francis Oshana experienced with her newborn son years ago.
“Within those first days of my son’s birth, we noticed all his high acid-reflux symptoms and that he was choking up on breast milk. It didn’t make sense that he would react to his mother’s milk that way,” said Francis Oshana, whose pediatrician suggested a process of elimination from her diet at that time.
Already a vegetarian, Francis Oshana said she eliminated dairy as the first potential culprit. The investigation was closed after that.
“Within five days his symptoms subsided and he slept 10 to 14 hours straight for the first time,” she said. “His symptoms stopped, he wasn’t choking anymore, no acid reflux, no rashes or acne. His skin went back to pure baby skin. My husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we’re vegan now.’”
Vegab cake from Planthropie.
Francis Oshana said she never looked back after that. Her journey into veganism – which eventually splintered off into an entrepreneurial journey – started in her home, where she began experimenting with vegan recipes. This opened her up to raw food making, which uses less heat application to preserve the highest amount of nutritional value in food.
She said transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle had an undeniable effect on her overall wellbeing.
“It was a new journey of learning new things,” she said. “You find a new, creative ways to make a breakfast that’s nourishing and energizing instead of blocking your system with eggs and meats and cheeses right when you get up in the morning. It was a mindset shift to seeking energy from food as opposed to stuffing your body.”
Francis Oshana, who is Iraqi-Assyrian, fled from the war-torn Middle East in 2003 when she was only 19. Along with family members, she filed for asylum to Canada, where she wound up studying for a handful of years. Francis Oshana studied preventative health care and nutritional counseling, which planted a few of the seeds that blossomed into her current values.
She continued her education in Detroit nearly 10 years ago, studying marketing and business. Schooling on all these subjects served as additional tools in her entrepreneurial toolbox. Her personal plight with digestive problems and maternal health issues tied everything together, and after a couple of years of pop-up appearances to give the public a taste of her vegan creations, Planthropie opened in early 2020.
Like so many other food-service industry businesses, Planthropie suffered mightily because of the COVID-19 shutdown. But one silver lining Francis Oshana found during the pandemic was the general public’s shift toward making more health-conscious decisions. She said this helped Planthropie persevere through its rough start.
Vegan tiramisu from Planthropie.
“(The pandemic) played into us turning a corner from a consumer perspective, but it also played into a motivation for us to keep going,” she said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we opened. That’s why we pushed through, because we believe food is medicine.”
Cheese and dessert cakes were two foods Francis Oshana was determined to bring with her on her journey into veganism. Because, who doesn’t love cheese and cake?
“I had to make my cheese, because I grew up with cheese,” she said. “And I wanted to make dessert that I could eat and feed my child without putting sugar in his system. So, we don’t use refined sugars in the desserts, we use dates, and a little bit of pure maple. It’s all natural, organic sources and ingredients.”
Cheeses at Planthropie are made from scratch. Instead of using dairy as a medium, cashews are cultured.
“It goes through a process of fermentation and developing flavors,” Francis Oshana said. “It’s love and time and minimal ingredients. And you get that cheesy melt that you’re used to and you love.”
Planthropie doesn’t imitate – Francis Oshana said you won’t find a mock feta or mock cheddar on the menu because that only heightens the expectations of customers. It would open Planthropie up to comparisons, which would go against the ethos of a business that strives to be unique.
“It’s not trying to compete and compare, it’s opening you up to new ways of doing things,” she reiterated.
Other cheeses available as part of Planthropie’s cheese flights, tasting tours, bricks and artisanal cheese boxes include jalapeño, Morocco and rotating seasonal flavors.
Here are the mini cake options at Planthropie:
  • Au cacao
  • Hazelnut chocolate
  • Pistachio delight
  • Pumpkin spice
  • Rose pistachio
  • Salted caramel cheesecake
  • Signature cheesecake
  • Snickers peanut butter
  • Strawberry and cream
  • Tiramisu
The business produces in-house liquid dessert drinks – like hot chocolate, mocha and matcha – its own tea and botanical options and small bite desserts, like raspberry chocolate truffle balls, brownie truffle balls and more.
Planthropie also sells zero-alcohol beverages, mocktails and numerous vegan health and wellness products sourced from like-minded small businesses. All cheeses and desserts produced at Planthropie are free from dairy, refined sugar, grains, soy, gluten, additives, fillers, oils, and flavorings.
“Eating a plant-based diet inspires you to create your own food, take your own power and make your own food,” Francis Oshana said. “It really is empowering. Because you know what’s going on your plate and what you’re putting into your body, instead of relying on others. You’re minimalizing ingredients and maximizing the potency of your food.”
More metro Detroit vegan restaurants:
Photo credit: Planthropie

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.