Third Culture Bakery donates thousands of safety kits to combat anti-Asian hate


Safety kits ­ photo courtesy of Third Culture Bakery

In March, after a white gunman shot eight people, including six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Berkeley, Calif.-based Third Culture Bakery co-owners Wenter Shyu and Sam Butarbutar started an initiative to donate thousands of safety kits to nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York to help combat anti-Asian hate.

“We came up with the idea to maybe offer some offense instead of defense because I feel like a lot of it was just focusing on how to prevent the attacks or how to stay safer,” Shyu told the Nichi Bei Weekly in a phone interview.

In 2014, Butarbutar, who was born in Indonesia and grew up in New York, began making mochi muffins at his own bakery, selling the future Third Culture Bakery trademark at beer gardens and special events.

As Butarbutar and Shyu, who is of Taiwanese descent and grew up in Los Angeles, started dating, their love helped sprout Third Culture Bakery in 2017. Shyu said they aimed to highlight their cultures in the culinary items they created, hence the bakery’s name. It also has locations in Denver and Aurora, Colo., with a Walnut Creek, Calif. location coming soon.

Safety kits. photo courtesy of Third Culture Bakery

The safety kits Shyu and Butarbutar helped distribute included keychain alarms, pepper spray, a lanyard, wristband and instructions on how to use the pepper spray and alarms, translated in Spanish and several different Asian languages, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese and more.

Shyu said they donated to more than 30 large nonprofit organizations and more than 50 grassroots organizations and senior care facilities. As of August, the bakery has donated more than 22,000 kits, Shyu said. The bakery fulfilled safety kit requests to two senior homes and grassroots protection organizations in New York and six or seven similar groups in Los Angeles, along with donating safety kits for a protection course for seniors hosted by the Aurora

Police Department in Colorado, Shyu said.

The main challenge the bakery faced was waiting for the items to arrive, as they were “back ordered or had to wait for production,” Shyu said.

Due to high demand, the bakery had to wait “an extra six to eight weeks to turn around an order of 2,000 at a time,” he said.

Oakland, Calif.-based Asian Health Services received more than 1,000 safety kits, which it mainly distributed to staff and patients in Oakland’s Chinatown, Sherry Hirota, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, noted. She said the bakery contacted her nonprofit “to make sure people felt cared for and I think that was as important as the little safety kits themselves.”

“When this donation came in from Third Culture Bakery, it was really, very thoughtful because they also got engaged in personal safety training,” Hirota said in a Zoom interview with the Nichi Bei Weekly.

While Shyu and Butarbutar have not personally experienced any physical anti-Asian attacks, Shyu said they have heard “a lot of stupid, ignorant, racist comments and remarks here and there,” including from the public relations firm they later fired.

Despite some community members sharing stories of family members getting attacked or experiencing forms of hate, Shyu said feedback from the community about the safety kits has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“I do think that the safety kits — it does provide them with a sense of security or at least it gives them some sense of feeling that maybe they could ward off anything that might happen to them in their daily lives,” Shyu stated.

The Third Culture West Berkeley Showroom is located at 2701 8th St., Berkeley, Calif., and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. It is open for walk-in customers and take-out. To place curbside pick-up orders, call (415) 484-5539. The downtown Aurora Showroom is located at 9935 East Colfax Ave., Aurora, Colo. and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. To place curbside pick-up orders, call (720) 507-4830. The Denver Matcha Café is located at 2500 Lawrence St. #200, Denver. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for walk-in customers and take out. For more information, call (720) 507-4830 or visit

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