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Delivery Startup Suddenly Folds, Leaving Food Business Owners With Thousands in Unpaid Bills

Plus, Oakland vegan restaurant Gay4U shutters brick-and-mortar to launch traveling pop-up and more food news

Zero Grocery

The Fresno County-based tech startup Zero Grocery announced it’s shutting down in early March, a mere month after raising $12 million in funding. In a post on Twitter founder and CEO Zuleyka Strasner said the company was “chronically undercapitalized.” Now a number of Bay Area food businesses tell the Chronicle the company owes them money. As Kneaded Bakery owner Iliana Berkowitz says the start up owes her East Bay business $6,000, and Starter Bakery’s owner Brian Wood says he’s owed $25,000.

Zero Grocery’s appeal was in offering deliveries in under two hours and with no plastic waste, differentiating the company from other services through the commitment to sustainability. The Ferry Building’s Obour Foods and Starter Bakery relied on Zero Grocery’s services during the pandemic’s closures, per the Chronicle, but it wasn’t long before these businesses noticed issues with the company. Zero Grocery founder Zuleyka Strasner maintains these ups and downs are part of the industry, and that the outstanding bills will be returned.

West Oakland’s headquarters for queer vegans goes cross country

Ginger Espice, a San Diego trans femme woman, came to the Bay in her 20s and began demonstrating her plant-based tamale-making prowess. Years later, her efforts culminated in Gay4U, a vegan restaurant where transgender and people of color diners ate for free. KQED writes of Espice’s time in the Bay, her many contributions to her communities, and the entrepreneur’s next move: starting in April, Gay4U’s brick-and-mortar location will close and the business will begin popping up across the country until the end of September.

California orders crabbing season to close early

The commercial Dungeness crabbing season got up and running late this year. Now, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are telling the industry, and eaters, fishing will wrap up early on April 8. The closure applies to only specific counties — Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte are unaffected, for example — and does not impact recreational crabbing. The Marin Independent Journal reports government officials cite humpback whales migrating in the area as an event too risky to continue fishing. Whales getting caught in commercial lines was a major reason why the crabbing season began late, as well.

Chocolate shop and cafe opens in San Francisco’s Chinatown

The Chronicle reports on Jade Chocolates, Mindy Fong’s new storefront opening on Grant Avenue this Wednesday. The chocolate company’s storefront will offer her chocolates, but also sparkling matcha, ice cream sundaes, and baked goods. Fong’s family, on her father’s side, has been in San Francisco for five generations, coming to Chinatown in the 1800s. Fong has been crafting and selling her sweet homage to her family and history since 2008.

Santa Clara and San Jose bridged by new coffee-donut partnership

Academic Coffee’s Frank Nguyen read the room. The business owner realized his coffee shops in San Jose could benefit from donuts, as could all of downtown San Jose. According to a Mercury News report, Nguyen decided to start carting in Stan’s Donuts from Santa Clara, a go-to glazed donut winner since 1959. Co-owner of Stan’s Julie Clark was a fan right away, so now San Jose residents can skip the morning drive to get their pastry fix.

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