It’s all about sustainability for Matt Zimbalist, co-founder of the Re-Up Refill Shop in Oakland, which sells a range of household, personal, and bulk food products in refillable glass or aluminum containers. For those who live within delivery range, Matt or one of his team members will even pick up the empty containers and deliver refills via electric bike — almost like an old-fashioned milkman.

Matt and his business partners, Peter Lollo and Carly Fishman, have just opened a full-service storefront at 6025 College Ave in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. Their main goal is helping consumers reduce their ecological footprint by minimizing waste. The shop is a big step up from the 160-square-foot converted shipping container in a West Oakland eco-industrial park where they started 16 months ago. Matt’s not sure they could have opened their new upgraded location without an interest-free business loan from Hebrew Free Loan.

Before opening the Re-Up Refill Shop, Matt was involved in organic farming and artisan ecological building. His most recent job was as site manager for Urban Adamah in Berkeley, a nonprofit that integrates Jewish traditions and sustainable agriculture.

Without a track record in business, it would have been hard to get a loan from a bank to start and grow the Re-Up Refill Shop. At Hebrew Free Loan, Matt found an open door and a loan team that cared more about his dreams and the soundness of his plans than about his previous business experience.

“I was inspired by the story of Hebrew Free Loan’s first loan over 100 years ago to help an immigrant Jewish vendor buy a pushcart. I don’t sell goods from a pushcart, but I do make bicycle deliveries, and this present-day interest-free business loan gave me my start in a way that’s not so different from how it was back in 1897.”

Matt’s maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, which permeated his Jewish identity as a child growing up near San Diego. He has been motivated by social and environmental justice ever since his freshman year at UC Berkeley, when he took his first classes on climate change and ethnic studies. Matt is committed to living lightly on the earth, in harmony with nature and in community with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

The Covid-19 pandemic slowed the growth of the Re-Up Refill Shop, but they made it through the lockdowns and are on an upward trajectory. Inventory has grown to over 400 products, many of which are sourced locally. If you’ve never ordered from the shop before, use the code “HebrewFree” to receive a 15% discount on your first online order or your first purchase from the College Ave storefront.

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