TEMPE, AZ — Sasha Raj started 24 Carrots, a vegan bakery, juice bar, and restaurant, in 2008 in Chandler.
She survived her first year in business, a huge milestone for any small business; then her fifth, her 10th, a move to Tempe, and a pandemic that forced her to close her dining room for months, quickly develop a system to accept online orders, and continue to take care of her customers and her employees.
Despite all of those everyday challenges, Raj said her restaurant will close in a matter of weeks — tentatively set for Dec. 10 — after her business lease was unexpectedly not renewed.
“We’ve done our very best to make sure that we’ve met all of our responsibilities. But each entity that we’re involved with has responsibilities to others, and our landlord was met with an offer that far exceeded what we could ever match and decided to go in a different direction,” she said.
“I think I’m actually dehydrated from tears,” she said. “So it is very difficult, you know? This is my home. This is my — what I wake up in the morning, what I go to sleep thinking about, and the amount of sacrifice that’s involved in any small business is tremendous.”
It’s not known what business will be taking over her space.
Finding another spot and researching and securing a new lease takes time, on top of physically building out the kitchen and restaurant, decorating the walls, ordering food and ingredients, and training the staff, she said. Then working to get the word out to customers old and new.
“That takes time, and you know, decisions that involve other people’s lives, my team’s lives, and their ability to earn and provide for their families,” she said.
As for what’s next, she isn’t sure.
For now, she’s planning to do what she’s done every Thanksgiving: fulfill her Thanksgiving orders for one last season, and be there for her customers and staff over the next six weeks or so.
“I make way too much food, I send them (her employees) home with leftovers. We just have a good time with that, that’s definitely a memory we want to be able to share with our community,” she said.
Beyond that, she might take some time to relax after years of 100-hour weeks, she said. She said she’s also interested in serving as a mentor to other vegan small businesses and helping to continue to foster that community.
So, it’s not “goodbye,” she said, but “see you later.”
“I come from a long line of first-generation immigrants who don’t, you know, didn’t know that this could be a career. It was scary, and I’m a woman, a first-generation immigrant entrepreneur in this country, and I am so incredibly humbled by how much and how long of a story I’ve had so far, she said. “And I can’t wait to see what it could be in the future. I know that all of that is possible because everyday people made incredibly kind and generous decisions every day — and I had the privilege of benefiting from them.”
“So, thank you”
IF YOU GO:
1701 E. Guadalupe Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283