It takes so little to make a significant impact: Alice’s restaurant raised $10 000 for Ukraine

Alice’s restaurant is a legend. It is mentioned in songs and books, it is one of the symbols of the Peace Movement. Since the 1960s’ and until now, the restaurant has been a magnet for creative people, peace lovers, entrepreneurs, and millions of open-minded individuals from different spots of the world connected with similar humane values. And above all, it is a place with an extraordinary combo of excellent cuisine, and social impact aims to follow. For Americans, there’s no wonder Alice’s started a fundraiser to support people and animals in need, even if it is for Ukraine, a country situated overseas. After the war in Ukraine exploded, such fundraisers started and kept spreading awareness about Ukraine and raising money to support its citizens.

Jamie, co-owner of Alice's, and Taylor, the manager of Alice's; next to the Ukrainian Shirt outside of Alice's restaurant. Pictures provided by Alex Tauber

Alice’s restaurant transfers money raised by selling T-shirts with the Ukrainian flag on the logo to the Coordination Center Save Ukraine Now (SUN). It is $10 000 so far. We met with Alex Tauber, co-founder and CEO of Veer (a Tech company with a Ukrainian office) and a close friend of Jamie and Andy Kerr, the current owners of Alice’s restaurant, and his colleague and the fond of Alice’s Stanislav (Stan) Zlatkin to ask about the fundraiser.

Alice’s restaurant is a legend. But what do Ukrainians need to know about Alice’s in California that organized a fundraiser to support Ukraine?

Alex: Alice’s restaurant starts its story in the 1960s as part of a Peace movement. Arlo Guthrie also wrote a song at that time named «Alice’s restaurant», commemorating the Peace movement. Jamie and Andy, the owners of Alice’s, grew up in the area and continued the restaurant's character. It is in the middle of Redwoods (Redwood National and State Parks), in the mountains. It is actually in the middle of nowhere! But everybody wants to come to Alice’s restaurant, it’s full on the weekend. I’ve seen German tourists that landed in San Francisco rent Harley-Davidsons and drive their motorcycles to Alice’s restaurant. So if you’re a car enthusiast, motorcycle enthusiast, or like the outdoors, Alice’s restaurant is for you.

The owners do many things for the community. It is not just a restaurant, it’s a community center. When there are fires around or the community has other needs, Jamie and Andy are always there to help. They care about everyone around, even though they live in the forest. They mentor everyone working in the restaurant; they make sure that kids go to college. They are phenomenal individuals!

Stan: Everyone knows Alice’s and wants to go there! Elon Musk drove one of his first Teslas to Alice's restaurant. As I remember, he did not color the car, and people couldn't identify what the car was. Steve Jobs' daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs wrote a book named «A small fry», where the restaurant is mentioned. She describes her sitting with her father in the restaurant and talking about something. We were lucky enough to meet Olympians, Olympic wrestling coaches, and Nobel Prize winners there too.

Alice’s Restaurant at the intersection of Skyline Blvd and Highway 84 is an institution beloved by locals and tourists alike. Photo by Kate Bradshaw

Many people come with dogs. The place respects dogs that sit around the table with humans. Every time I visit Alice’s, there are new people, but I recognize many of those I have seen before, they are probably a core of this community, and they know each other well. Also, I think I never even saw the menu of the restaurant. People know or ask the personnel of the restaurant. You can go there and be served by Jamie or Andy, and you will not know if it is a co-worker or an owner of a place. They learn what we like, but are always able to offer something different. And it’s always very creative.

What connects Alice’s restaurant to Ukraine?

Alex: When Stan and Misha from our team at Veer started coming to Alice’s, the definition of community expanded. And by that, I mean, when the war in Ukraine broke out, it was very frequent for Jamie and Andy to ask about them: «Hey, how are Stan and Misha doing?»

Alice's restaurant tries to push the message of peace, which is very consistent with its history.

Stan: The community is precious. Everybody goes there with families, and it doesn't matter if you are just a visitor, a tourist, a Nobel Prize winner, or whoever, you all have to sit at one wooden table and say «Cheers!». It is the same for everybody, and it is crowded almost every evening.

It's a special place in the middle of nowhere; only sequoias (redwoods) can be seen here. The only place nearby is a fire station.

Looks like you are a part of the community…

Alex: Veer has 10 employees in Ukraine, and when some of them come to the USA, they go to Alice’s, it’s their place here: «We don’t wanna go anywhere; let’s go to Alice’s».

The Alice’s team constantly asks about our teammates and how the guys are doing. Since the war started, Jamie and Andy kept saying: «We need to do something to help; what is going on is not right». They want to help people, and they want to help animals in Ukraine.

Can you recall the moment when the war in Ukraine started, what were you doing?

Stan: Our team is spread around Ukraine; we have people in Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Kyiv. For me, the war started from that «historical» speech of putin. I had a feeling it wasn’t right, and we needed to escape the city. My family and I ran from Kharkiv two days before the war started. We went to the town in central Ukraine where my parents live. Later, we moved to Ivano-Frankivsk, since we have friends here. I wasn’t expecting that scale of war, and the worst key scenario, in my opinion, was the escalation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But I was totally wrong!! We thought we were leaving for a week, but we hadn’t visited our home yet.

Alex: I think Ukraine is my adopted homeland. I am originally from Ecuador, South America. I was lucky enough to come to college and have a life in America. I am happy with my life, having amazing people near me, and the opportunity to work with a great team. I do what I love. Unfortunately, I tried to go home to Ecuador when I was a lot younger, aiming to make a difference in my country. And I couldn't. They have tried to kidnap me three times. The state is very corrupted; there's too much violence. And now it's even worse with the drugs.

When I think of Ukraine, I’ve always wanted to make a difference. I started to go to Ukraine more than ten years ago. I think of Ukraine as a country with tremendous potential and incredible people that deserve an opportunity. There is a generation of well-educated people, and if given a chance, they will build this country right. They represent the best hopes and aspirations of a nation.

I could never make a difference in Ecuador, but I hope to make a difference in Ukraine. It is driven by my relationship with the team.

Alice's restaurant team in Ukrainian T-shirts. Credits: Alice's restaurant Instagram profile

And what are your memories of that darker day?

Alex: The last time Stan came to the USA, he told me that they packed backpacks. We had a feeling that something would happen. I’ve heard about the war on the news. It was the hardest, the most traumatic week at the company. Communication was very hard; everybody was trying to flee to the west of Ukraine. Not hearing from people was the most devastating…

Our teammates left their houses, apartments, and farms with the missiles that landed on them. Stan’s son used to go to school, now destroyed. Just imagine, as a child, everything that you take for granted and everything that creates a stable environment for you to see destroyed.

There is a high degree of empathy here in the US, which is why people care.

How did the idea of the fundraiser with the T-shirts at Alice’s appear?

Alex: Most of the team members were in root to Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv, and before they arrived, they stayed at somebody’s house in Khmelnytskyi that they didn’t know. Someone welcomed them into their house, and this was not one person, it was 12 people and a cat!

Stan: We had to stop for the night because it was very late, and we were too long on the road. In Khmelnytskyi, we saw a private house. We didn’t know the guy. We just heard from our friend that he stayed in this house the night before us. The man, the house's owner, served us dinner and gave us everything we needed to sleep there. In the morning, when we wanted to thank him with some money, he refused and said: «Thanks for staying with us and good luck on your trip».

Alex: This story is important because it is about how people do good things without even being asked. So what happens in Alice’s is a very natural extension of what happens in Ukraine. Many people are doing good things. Many people are giving. And then they start to receive from the unexpected places. This is how it works.

So, the fundraiser. Jamie and Andy asked if we had any ideas for a T-shirt, and within two hours, Misha had developed five different logotypes for T-shirts. So it was tough for Jamie and Andy not to do anything because Misha prepared everything. It was like: «You wanna do something, here’s the solution». Misha was the one who started the ball rolling.

Jamie and Andy have a Ukrainian flag exposed; I have a Ukrainian flag outside my house. Whether this is Alice’s or my house, this is their home (the Ukrainian part of the team). We do what we can to make sure their home represents them.

Ukrainian flag exposed on the Alex Tauber's house

Are people willing to buy these T-shirts?

Alex: Jamie and Andy are running out of T-shirts. The guy who makes T-shirts couldn’t produce them fast enough. Everybody wants to buy it as it is exposed outside the restaurant.

Imagine if you love soccer. Imagine going to the British Premier League team tournament. Would you buy a shirt? Absolutely! You like soccer, and you are in the soccer team stadium. Imagine if you go to Alice’s. You have to love peace. They bought shirts because they came to Alice’s!

Can we speak about some particular numbers here?

Alex: They raised $14 000. $10 000 went to Save Ukraine Now, and also they donated to the World Central Kitchen in Poland, which is feeding Ukrainian refugees there. And I know that they are still selling shirts.

What initiatives like Alice’s show to others?

Alex: When it started, we all hoped that it would end quickly. We all get used to the idea that it won't. If it’s going to play to the Ukrainian favor, we need to keep the awareness of what’s happening at the top. If not, the other thing will come and distract people. What Ukraine is doing is David and Goliath's story. And the only way Ukraine can succeed is with help from other people. As a country, we have spent so much money in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in counties that don’t want to be democratic, that don’t want freedom, that do not share the values that we have, and here we have the country that truly aspires to that values and all they want is a bit of help. They don’t want us to do the fighting; they just want help. At the same time, so many precious human beings and animals are getting displaced. As a society, we have to care.

We must keep awareness so that Ukrainians get the help they need.

Read also: Ukraine is all of us: American artist donated $20 000 to support Ukrainians. Interview

Stan: It is essential that there are people that care. People that help. It is not about T-shirts, cookies, or huge donations. There are funds like Save Ukraine Now. The main thing is that there are people who care and can make an impact.

Jamie and Andy (on the picture outside the restaurant) make all their visitors feel they are helping Ukraine. That’s the chemistry :)

The restaurant sells more T-shirts than can be produced, and people who maybe didn't know about Ukraine before buying this T-shirt are so precious. So more people started to care because of such initiatives.

Alex: A lot of people and animals there suffer so much, and the effort it takes to help them is sometimes so little.

Save Ukraine Now was founded by Ivano-Frankivsk City Council, Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Territorial Center for Recruitment and Social Support, Ivano-Frankivsk Business Association, Teple Misto Charity Organization, Promprylad.Renovation Innovation Center, Frankivsk Drama Theater, and other partners to meet the needs of military battalions of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast at the frontline, and to support humanitarian activities for Ukrainians affected by war.

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