- Upscale convenience store chain Green Zebra Grocery is permanently closing all of its locations on March 31 after ten years in business, according to a company announcement.
- Green Zebra, which operates three c-stores in Portland, Oregon, has been “holding on by a thread since the pandemic,” having experienced nine consecutive quarters of cost increases on its products, packaging, fuel, insurance and taxes, founder and CEO Lisa Sedlar said in the announcement.
- Upon the closings, Green Zebra will pay its team members in full, including their accrued vacation hours, according to the announcement. Sedlar said she’s also reaching out to other local grocers and encouraging them to hire Green Zebra’s team members.
After opening its first store in 2013, Green Zebra quickly built a following by offering specialty groceries, local beer and coffee, on-tap kombucha and other health-focused products. Its stores average around 5,000 square feet — twice the size of a typical c-store — and serve grocery as well as convenience shopping trips.
By 2018, the retailer opened its fourth store, and had amassed nearly $9 million to undertake a West Coast expansion, hoping to have 24 locations by 2023, and eventually 200 stores as well as 200 self-service “micro” locations in places like office buildings.
However, the early months of the pandemic wiped away much of the foot traffic from college students and office workers that Green Zebra stores relied on. In August 2020, the company shuttered two of its then four locations, and it hasn’t been able to bounce back since then.
“Combine that with supply chain and staffing shortages and razor thin grocery margins, we just couldn’t overcome all the obstacles,” Sedlar said in the announcement.
Since its early days, Green Zebra has supported Portland’s food economy, having partnered with more than 100 different local nonprofits such as Harper’s Playground, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Meals on Wheels and PSU Food Pantry. Additionally, the retailer has supported its staff in terms of wages and benefits, having increased its internal minimum wage seven times since 2013, and implemented affordable health insurance for all staff and their dependents.
Sedlar said Green Zebra is “beyond disappointed” that the retailer was unable to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19 and current economic conditions.