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From vodka to borscht, ways Tampa Bay businesses are supporting Ukraine

Here’s how local businesses are helping refugees or stopping money from going to Russia-made products.
A sign in the vodka area of a Pennsylvania Fine Wine and Good Spirits store reflects the state's decision to withdraw Russian-made products for sale, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Harmony, Pa.
A sign in the vodka area of a Pennsylvania Fine Wine and Good Spirits store reflects the state's decision to withdraw Russian-made products for sale, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Harmony, Pa. [ KEITH SRAKOCIC | AP ]
Published Mar. 9

Many countries have taken action to condemn Russia for launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine — and businesses are following suit.

Grocers are stopping sales of Russian vodka. McDonald’s announced Tuesday that it’ll temporarily shut down all of its Russian restaurants and Shell said it would stop buying Russian oil and natural gas.

Businesses in Tampa Bay, big and small, have also found ways to support Ukraine by offering perks for donations to refugees or setting aside profits to go toward nonprofit efforts. Here’s how local companies are getting involved.

Hip Expressions

The belly dance studio in St. Petersburg is run by Johanna Krynytzky, a first-generation Ukrainian American. She also employs two Ukrainian instructors and has students with family stuck in the crosshairs of the war. To raise awareness, a group of dancers for Hip Expressions performed last week at the Awakening Festival in St. Petersburg wearing blue and yellow, Krynytzky said. The belly dance studio will also contribute profits from March and April to go toward the Red Cross’ Ukrainian division, Krynytzky said. A show on April 23 will benefit humanitarian efforts to the country.

“I’m really touched by the support of people around the world and even by some people in Russia,” Krynytzky said. “I hope that energy can keep going.”

Kozuba and Sons Distillery

The Polish American distillery based in St. Petersburg announced all money, not just profits, from vodka sales in their gift shop will go toward CARE’s Ukraine emergency program. CARE is a nonprofit working to send water, food, hygiene kits, and support to Ukrainian families. The St. Petersburg distillery sold about $2,977 worth of vodka that it will donate to CARE, according to a report posted on Facebook on Monday.

Babushka’s

The Russian restaurant with locations in Temple Terrace and South Tampa is offering free borscht, a red beet soup, for people who show proof of donating money to Ukraine — humanitarian efforts or for the army. So far, it’s driven about $1,000 in the first week, owner Kirill Chemodanov said.

Some in the local Russian community have been upset that the restaurant isn’t supporting their own country, Chemodanov said.

“Even though we’re from Russia, we don’t support the government’s actions at all,” he said. The restaurant also hosted a protest Saturday with about a hundred people in support of Ukraine with an immigration attorney present for Ukrainians who needed assistance.

Publix

The Lakeland-based grocer removed Russian vodka from its shelves, the Miami Herald reported. Brands like Beluga, Ruskova, Russian Standard and Zyr won’t be sold in Publix. Several Russian-branded vodkas will still be sold because they’re not actually made in Russia such as Stolichnaya (made in Latvia), Romanov (India) and Smirnoff (U.S.).

Pierogi Bar

Pierogi Bar is a cottage kitchen in St. Petersburg that makes pierogi for customers who order online on Wednesday March 2, 2022.
Pierogi Bar is a cottage kitchen in St. Petersburg that makes pierogi for customers who order online on Wednesday March 2, 2022. [ AYA DIAB | Times ]

Daryna Voloshyn moved to the Tampa Bay area with her family when she was 9 from Lviv, Ukraine. She opened Pierogi Bar, a cottage kitchen in St. Petersburg last year and said she hopes food can educate people about her culture. She’s planning to expand into a restaurant space in St. Petersburg. A portion of sales from pierogi orders will go toward a nonprofit her brother started to send U.S. doctors to help wounded victims in Ukraine and with future recovery efforts, Voloshyn said.

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Southeastern Grocers

The parent company of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores donated $250,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to a statement from Feb. 26.

“We recognize the people of Ukraine need our help, and they need it now,” said Southeastern Grocers president Anthony Hucker. In addition, the supermarket chain said all proceeds from its private label Ukrainian vodka will go to the Red Cross for 31 days, a nod to how many years since Ukraine declared independence.

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