Multiple Michigan specialty coffee shops have temporarily closed their doors after receiving hate-filled and threatening letters.
The coffee shops are among a growing number of retail business throughout the state that have received similar anti-LGBTQ+ and/or anti-semitic hate letters, according to numerous media reports and information obtained by DCN.
At least two of the coffee businesses are owned by queer-identifying people and each have flown pride flags at their stores, although neither the author/s of the letters nor their motives have been identified.
Last week, Detroit’s The Gathering Coffee Co. announced plans to close after receiving what the company described as a 10-page letter with words and images of hate that also included threats of harm and specific dates.
The company has since launched a Gofundme campaign in order to cover lost wages and tips for workers, to cover lost sales, to hire temporary security and to cover therapy and resource costs.
“We cannot let someone else’s hate keep our doors closed,” an Instagram post from the company said yesterday. “This is a plea, from one small business owner, to all those impacted by our shop and team over the last two and a half years.”
The Gathering Owner Emily Steffen told DCN by phone that the shop reopened today, although funds are still being gathered to assist staff.
Meanwhile, in Lansing, Michigan, Strange Matter Coffee Co. yesterday announced plans to close both its shops “out of an abundance of caution” after receiving a similar 10-page letter. The company maintains a Venmo account that serves as a staff tip jar (@strangematterco).
Strange Matter Co-Owner Cara Nader told Daily Coffee News that at least one other Michigan coffee shop has reported receiving a similar letter, as have other non-coffee retail businesses in the Southeast Michigan and Lansing/East Lansing areas.
“I have not seen the full contents of their letters,” Nader told DCN by phone today. “But to be honest, ours was very nonsensical.”
Strange Matter is among a number of Michigan businesses that have contacted the FBI regarding the letters. The company announced it will be reopening March 3.
“We never feel particularly safe these days, but that’s everywhere,” the company wrote on Instagram today. “We all should sit with this and think about if this is how we want to live. How can we change it?”
The Gathering’s Steffen told DCN that there’s “no book” business owners can turn to when faced with acts of such hatred and discrimination.
“This is trauma,” Steffen said, noting that numerous peers in the coffee industry have reached out for support. “I called former employers. I called people I’ve worked alongside and other female-owned businesses in the city that I have had the privilege of walking with throughout these times.”