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Green Zebra Ceasing Operations in Portland

Natural and organic c-store cites simultaneous challenges
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Green Zebra is closing all of its Portland stores by March 31.

It’s over and out for Green Zebra Grocery in Portland. The retailer that combined natural and organic offerings with a convenient format announced that it is shuttering its three locations in that Oregon city at the end of this month.

Named for a unique tomato variety, the business opened a decade ago and grew to three sites, but it wasn’t always an easy run. The pandemic hit the operator hard, as it closed its downtown Portland location more than a year.

[Read more: "Walmart Announces Spate of Store Closings"]

That setback, coupled with a dearth of day workers, inflation and other woes, contributed to the decision to close. “We have been holding on by a thread since the pandemic started and have been in austerity mode since then,” said founder and CEO Lisa Sedlar. “We experienced nine straight quarters of increases to our cost of goods, packaging, fuel, insurance, taxes, freight charges and well, pretty much everything. Combine that with supply chain and staffing shortages and razor thin grocery margins, we just couldn’t overcome all the obstacles. 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.”

Green Zebra earned its stripes as a unique retailer that eschewed typical convenience store goods like lottery tickets and sugary drinks for better-for-you products including homemade meals to go, kombucha drinks, locally-sourced produce and more. The independent retailer also focused on its staff by offering fair wage jobs and affordable health insurance for team members and their dependents.

Indeed, Sedlar emphasized Green Zebra’s associates when sharing news about the shutdown. “We will pay all of our team members in full, including their accrued vacation hours,” she said, adding. “I highly recommend hiring our team members as they are knowledgeable grocery professionals who provide the highest level of service. In addition I am personally reaching out to other local grocery leaders and encouraging them to hire our team members.”

In related regional news, Walmart announced last week it is closing its last two stores in Portland, which has also been affected by rising crime rates over the past few years. "We have nearly 5,000 stores across the U.S. and unfortunately some do not meet our financial expectations,” the company explained in a statement. "While our underlying business is strong, these specific stores haven’t performed as well as we hoped."

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