Since the summer, Chef Virginia Rachel Ranti has been serving her Singapore-style crab and Southeast Asian cuisine in two pop-ups, Marimakan Crabhouse and Marimakan Seattle, with customers usually paying through Venmo. Last week she had a catch: Venmo suddenly frozen her account without explanation.
The first of the month is a scary time when the money is suddenly no longer available (Ranti had about $ 3,000 waiting for the transfer), especially as a single parent who has rent at stake. Although a long overdue vacation was planned, Ranti worked extra days to cover the rent; Her friends also quickly launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the frozen funds. After contacting Venmo and waiting for four days, her funds were finally released – now Ranti (or Chef V, as she is called) plans to reuse the crowdsourced funds.
“I worked non-stop for two weeks and [my customers] only paid me through Venmo, ”says Ranti. “I think there were just too many transactions because I didn’t stop and Venmo tagged my account.”
As the sole operator of Marimakan Crabhouse and Marimakan Seattle, and as a single parent, Ranti doesn’t always have time to keep a close eye on Venmo transactions or make transfers once a payment is received. For pop-ups in their early stages, especially with already limited resources, a Venmo freeze can have painful consequences, including loss of the ability to operate indefinitely or pay expenses. Rantis rental price means that from now on she will pursue other payment options. “For the time being, I’ll be staying with Cell, but in the future I’ll also be looking at various payment options such as a website or [another online] Ordering system, ”she says.
The GoFundMe campaign raised around $ 500 in just a few days and was disabled when Rantis Venmo funds were released. Now she is considering putting a portion of it on her hospital bill for the second degree burn on her hand that she sustained while working, and wants at least half to be used to feed the community. While still in the brainstorming phase, Ranti imagines giving away 60-80 servings of Singapore Hawker Center Food or fried noodle dishes. Giving back is already firmly anchored in their business. “I give something back to the community because I’ve never let anyone do that for me before … When I reach my goal or if I have extra meat, I just give it to whoever needs it,” she said. “If someone needs food, I’ll cook for them.”
Marimakan Crabhouse and Marimakan Seattle were recently featured on local news documenting the surge in Southeast Asian grocery and pop-up sales in the city. (Masakan is another Malay family pop-up that started in Seattle last year.) Selling Singaporean, Indonesian, and Malaysian family recipes like nasi lemak and shrimp mee, Ranti is perhaps best known for their cooked crab and sauces that don’t skimp on spice. Ranti sources live crabs from local markets and prepares them in signature sauces such as Mubai garlic, seasoned with crispy chilli, garlic and a hint of umami; Singapore black pepper; and salted egg yolk topping. She has regulars who came all the way from Portland for her cooked crab.
Having worked practically non-stop since her pop-ups started, Ranti is currently on a two-week hiatus. Follow Marimakan Crabhouse and Marimakan Seattle on Instagram to keep up to date with future pop-ups and events.