AUSTIN (KXAN) — The cascading economic effects from the Russian invasion of Ukraine are partially to blame for the closure of a local vegan ice cream shop, the owner told customers on social media.
Amelia Raley said she made the decision to close Sweet Ritual in north Austin after more than 10 years in business for a number of reasons, including that she had difficulty recently getting two key ingredients from Ukraine.
“Due to a combination of ingredient shortages (two of our ingredients are processed or grown in Ukraine), cost of food increases, increased cost of living in Austin, and personal health situation, I’ve made the decision to close,” Raley wrote in a statement posted online.
The ingredients in question are sunflower and safflower oil, she told KXAN. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, which compiles international trade data, Russia and Ukraine held the top two spots as the world’s leading exporters of these types of refined seed oils in 2020. Russia exported 14.8% of the global supply totaling $178 million, while Ukraine had 14% that generated $142 million.
Ongoing attacks against Ukraine as well as the blockage of its ports — on top of serious sanctions levied on Russia — are severely depleting the availability of sunflower and safflower oil across the globe.
Raley said she relied on those products to create various flavors of non-dairy ice cream that her customers came to enjoy since 2011. She said she never expected the Russian conflict in Ukraine would affect the ability for her to do business on top of other challenging economic circumstances.
“We use one ingredient that’s processed and grown in Ukraine. The Ukrainian symbol is the sunflower, so we use a lot of sunflower products and also something called safflower in our products. They’re either grown or produced there,” Raley explained. “So imagine my surprise when I call up my distributor in January and asked to get my next shipment and they tell me, ‘We don’t know when that’s coming.'”
Additionally, Raley called the COVID-19 pandemic “the death by a thousand cuts” for her business because she said it created less foot traffic, brought in fewer tourists, made it harder to get ingredients as well as paper products and led to long delays in getting equipment fixed.
“The writing has been on the wall for a little while, unfortunately,” Raley said. “I was going to try to do this summer season, but personal health issues are keeping me from being open anymore.”
She said she hopes what happened to her decade-old business will serve as a wakeup call for Austinites who don’t want to see their favorite local businesses close their doors.
“It’s important, now more than ever, to go out and support your truly local, truly small neighborhood businesses,” Raley said. “I know that it’s difficult. I know that I myself haven’t been able to patronize people as much as possible, but I do put it on my calendar and say once a week I want to go spend $20 at this one small business because I love them. I want to support them, and I want to appreciate them while they’re still around.”
Liquidation sale info
She will hold a liquidation sale this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to sell off remaining pints of ice cream, art work, furniture, tools, office supplies and much more.
The sales will last from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on June 8, 9 and 10. They’ll happen at the Sweet Ritual ice cream production kitchen at 8711 Burnet Road, Suite H 100-101, which is off Burnet Road near U.S. 183.
More detailed information about the sale can be found on the Sweet Ritual website.