Sales, ‘racist behavior’ concerns shut Third Culture’s Colorado branches

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Two of the Colorado locations of Third Culture, a famous bakery based in Berkeley, close due to the dropping sales and struggle with workers added to “racist behavior” it gets from its clients during the health crisis, Wenter Shyu, the bakery’s co-founder, told Denver Post last month.

In January last year, Shyu, her husband, along with chef Sam Butarbutar transferred to Colorado. They established their initial out-of-state branch in Aurora a month after they moved in.

Customers crowded in their location for the opening day, and they opened an additional one last summer in Denver’s River North Art District.

But Third Culture’s success was brief as they saw the sales drop throughout the pandemic. The bakery also struggled to secure ingredients including rice flour and coconut milk, which they source from California, due to the supply chain shortage.

Last year, Shyu told SFGATE that it had to continue on takeout orders for it to cover operational costs.

“It was really terrifying … we thought we had the possibility of losing the bakery,” the co-founder said.

“As Asian Americans, 2021 brought on a lot of racist behavior and confrontational behavior in addition to the pandemic stresses,” Shyu furthered in her talk to the Post. “It brought up a whole slew of difficulties. At some point, we were just so exhausted, and it just wasn’t quite worth it anymore, to be honest. Which is sad, because our trajectory prior to the pandemic was great.” 

In November last year, the company shut its location in Denver due to “unsavory” staffing concerns. Before the year ended, its Aurora location also closed.

“In the last six months, we’ve hired people, in Colorado especially, who start working with us. And then a month later, they make false claims or do things, and then we’d have to terminate them based on the offer letter, and it was just really difficult,” she said. “Colorado has some growing up to do.”

Meanwhile, the bakery’s locations in Berkeley and Walnut Creek remain in service.