Kay starts his day at Safeway, sometimes as early as 6:30 a.m., where he works his way strategically around the store. The Los Altos resident has found a routine in the two weeks since he started shopping for and delivering groceries: produce section first, then bread and dairy, so that he doesn’t have to zigzag.
“The process is becoming more and more efficient,” said Kay, who asked that only his first named be used. “For the first day and the second day, it took me a while to get adjusted, but to be honest, it’s an enjoyable process now. It’s a little bit of retail therapy, if you will.”
Kay runs a party rental business from his home but was forced to pause operations as events were canceled because of the pandemic. He is working as a shopper at The White Mulberry now, a Mountain View-based startup that hopes to support the local economy by employing Mountain View and Los Altos residents to deliver groceries.
“In some ways, I’m enjoying it because it allows me to just go out and do something useful with my time and not be depressed about the situation and have a feeling that people are being helped,” Kay said. “So all of those things, apart from the money part, I think that’s something that I really appreciate.”
The White Mulberry’s CEO and founder Tanu Pant said the business – which launched last summer to promote the work of stay-at-home artists – sees itself as “champions on local consumption.” She said it was “clear” that to continue supporting the community, the business would need to provide local products and services, while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19.
The resulting grocery delivery service enables Los Altos and Mountain View residents to request grocery deliveries from 11 grocery stores, from larger markets such as Safeway and Trader Joe’s to smaller local businesses like Felipe’s Market in Los Altos and Ava’s Downtown Market and Deli in Mountain View. The groceries are delivered within three days by a local resident.
“This is a common thing in our society – that the two issues are at odds and that the health problems need to be fixed before the economic challenges,” Pant said. “We at The White Mulberry are fortunately in a unique position to do something that mitigates both the problems simultaneously.”
The business charges a flat delivery fee of $10, which covers 15 items, and an additional 50-cent fee for every item after that, according to Pant. She said the business is trying to balance paying its shoppers the best wage possible while ensuring that the cost of delivery doesn’t make a dent in the customer’s wallet.
“We’re now focusing on how we can really give quality and service and along with that, really taking care in how the shopper can earn more,” she said.
The White Mulberry supplies its shoppers, including Kay, with gloves, masks and guidelines to maintain social distancing. The startup hopes to expand its delivery services to Los Altos Hills, Cupertino and Palo Alto next, Pant said.
She added that the business also receives 200-250 orders each day for its face masks, handcrafted by Ana Guerreiro and other Bay Area artists. Guerreiro, who runs home decor brand Alzuleycha, first worked with Pant to include her products in The White Mulberry’s customized gift boxes of artisan products.
Guerreiro said she had recently started selling her products at local markets when the pandemic prompted Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place orders. She reached out to Pant about potentially making masks, adding that her motivation to handcraft masks was primarily to help the community.
“For me, it’s really the community and also feeling that I’m helping the community, I’m helping (Pant) and it’s everyone helping everyone,” Guerreiro said. “We all feel like we’re a part of something, instead of just being in our little cocoon, isolated.”
For more information on The White Mulberry, call 603-0244 or visit thewhitemulberry.com.
For more information on Guerreiro’s home decor, visit alzuleycha.com.