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Misperceptions About Bay Area Caviar Shop's Name Spur Anti-Russian Messages

A Bay Area Caviar company says it’s been receiving hateful messages recently, fueled by misperceptions about the company’s name. As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Tsar Nicoulai Caviar says that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, its business has received anti-Russian comments from people walking by, social media messages, and letters.

As the president of the company, Ali Bolourchi, clarified, these hateful messages are especially frustrating because they are inaccurate. Bolourchi and his family live in the East Bay, their company is headquartered in Concord, their Sturgeon eggs are farmed near Sacramento, and their company has a cafe storefront at San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

“Between our staff, products, and our inspiration, it’s as American as it gets,” Bolourchi explained Wednesday, “there’s no affiliation to Russia the country, Russian subsidiaries, Russian businesses.”

He added that the company’s name was decided at its founding in 1984. “Nicoulai” came from the founder’s Swedish grandfather and “tsar” was added to entice customers to try the California-farmed Sturgeon eggs at a time when Russian-harvested Caspian caviar was seen as the gold standard.

“What was very useful in its inception to help people feel that the quality standards of white standard Sturgeon grown in the California sunshine — the equivalent of Caspian caviar– has now, fast forward to the last couple of months, has turned into us receiving hate mail in Russian,” Bolourchi elaborated.

The team at Tsar Nicoulai has sought help to translate the Russian letters so that they could read them. Bolourchi said some of the letters told his team to go back to Russia.

In response, Tsar Nicoulai is trying to make it abundantly clear it supports Ukraine. Its San Francisco storefront is now covered in Ukrainian flags and its staff members wear pins calling for support for Ukraine.

“As a farm, a facility, a café, we stand with the people of Ukraine, we feel what’s going on there is not just,” Bolourchi added.

Tsar Nicoulai has also been working with the Ferry Building to take added security measures at their San Francisco location.

The whole ordeal has taken a toll, Bolourchi said the company’s bottom line has taken a hit since the Russian invasion began. He also noted that from a mental health perspective, the hateful voicemails and comments have impacted his employees’ well-being.

Bolourchi said he hopes his company’s experience can be a lesson on the importance of educating yourself before passing judgment.

“There’s a ton of eastern European people who live in northern California and they produce some amazingly inspired food items, or may be valuable members of your community,” Bolourchi said. “So it’s really about getting to know your neighbors and approach it that way.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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