PORTLAND, Ore. — After a decade in the convenience store industry, Green Zebra Grocery is winding down operations and closing all three of its locations on March 31.
According to Green Zebra founder and CEO Lisa Sedlar, the company has been "holding on by a thread" since the COVID-19 pandemic started and has been "in austerity mode since then."
In a statement posted to the company's website, she noted that Green Zebra experienced nine straight quarters of increases to its cost of goods, packaging, fuel, insurance, taxes and freight charges, among other expenses. Alongside the price hikes, the retailer couldn't overcome the obstacles that also included supply chain and staffing shortages as well as "razor-thin" grocery margins.
"We definitely gave it our all and fought the good fight. We are thankful for the opportunity to have been in service to our community," Sedlar said. "I want to express my deep gratitude and love for our truly awesome team members, loyal customers, vendor friends, landlords, investors and everyone who has helped us along the way. It has been a great honor to serve our local community over the last 10 years, and we're beyond disappointed that we were unable to overcome the challenges presented by the global pandemic and current economic conditions."
In 2020, Green Zebra shuttered two of its c-stores, located at Portland State University and Lloyd District. The sites, which relied on student and business populations, were hit the hardest during the outbreak of the coronavirus, as Convenience Store News previously reported.
At the time of the stores' closings, Green Zebra also shuttered its Store Support office. In total, 60 team members were laid off.
Sedlar said Green Zebra is committed to ensuring an orderly transition for employees. The company will pay all of its team members in full, including their accrued vacation hours.
The executive is encouraging other grocers to hire Green Zebra employees, who she said "are knowledgeable grocery professionals who provide the highest level of service." Additionally, she is personally reaching out to other local grocery leaders and encouraging them to hire her team members.
"We would appreciate it if our customers would continue to shop with us in the coming weeks as we wind down. People often ask me if shopping local makes a difference and my answer is a resounding YES! Now more than ever small businesses need our support," Sedlar concluded. "Thank you in advance for voting with your dollars to support local businesses."
Founded in Portland in 2013, Green Zebra sought to redefine what it means to be a convenience store in America. The retailer offered customers made-from-scratch grab-and-go meals, a full-service coffee bar, kombucha Zlurpees, locally sourced meat, produce and groceries, and local beer.
Green Zebra supported its staff with fair wage jobs, increasing the internal minimum wage seven times over a decade in business, and offered affordable health insurance for all staff and their dependents.
Additionally, as a values-based business, Green Zebra has been a champion for the local food economy, as well as serving and supporting the communities surrounding each of its stores. Over the years, Green Zebra partnered with more than 100 different local nonprofits such as Harper's Playground, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Meals on Wheels and PSU Food Pantry.
"It was a real honor to have been a partner with Green Zebra Grocery since their grand opening back in 2013 and for all the years since," said Cody Goldberg, founder of Harper's Playground. "The Green Zebra team were like family to us and their presence in the neighborhood made the community stronger and more connected. We are thankful for their leadership and good deeds."