Where You Get Your Latte, Why It Matters
By Stephanie Kountouros
Reprinted from The Betty Pages,
May 2011 issue, page 15
Have you heard the buzz that there’s a boycott of the Wood’s Coffee chain? I got a call from local activist Evan Knappenberger, letting me know about it. Knappenberger said that the owners of Woods Coffee were anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ and that a group was forming to let people know and spread the word to boycott their establishments. He also claimed that Woods was “refusing to carry” the Betty Pages and the Cascadia Weekly because they were “too liberal.”
I am not about to support an anti-gay establishment, and what kind of coffeehouse doesn’t have access to local, alternative papers? However, I have both feet firmly planted in the “don’t believe everything you hear” camp. Even more important: giving both sides a fair hearing; I won’t boycott a damn thing without doing some fact-checking. Here’s what happened when I did.
I called the brand-new downtown Woods Coffeehouse and asked Random Employee if Woods discriminates against gays and lesbians. “Oh my gosh, no!” Random Employee exclaimed, “I have heard this a few times today and I wish people would just ask us instead of spreading this around!”
I pointed out that asking her was exactly what I was doing, then asked if they had a non-discrimination policy. She couldn’t give me a clear answer, so I asked about local papers. Random Employee patiently explained that Woods wouldn’t carry local papers because they were, “too messy.”
I mean, have you seen the size of the Sunday New York Times? Cause that mess is all over Woods on a Sunday afternoon. Just Sayin’ Dept.
So I thought I’d go to the source and emailed Woods from their corporate web page. I said that I was a long-time supporter of Woods and heard that the owners were anti-gay and anti-choice, and as a result won’t carry local, alternative newspapers like Cascadia Weekly and the Betty Pages. I then asked if Woods had an official position on these issues.
I received a response from Wes Herman (the owner of the Woods chain) saying that he would be happy to meet with me in person to “allow the truth to be told.”
I responded, asking again if he could just share with me the Woods policy on discrimination and to explain why they did not carry local, alternative press. Wes once again refused, and refused to respond to further requests from me.
So at this point, I don’t have what I’d call “proof” that there’s anything anti-gay or anti-choice going on. I’ve gotten some confirmation that Herman contributes to conservative groups like the Building Industry Association of Washington who sure are anti-environment and like to fight workers’ rights like having ergonomic support to, you know, avoid injuries on the job. But nothing that really substantiates bigotry.
There’s just this: if you ran a business in our happy little progressive, hippy-esque town, and someone claimed that you were hating on gay people, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to loudly proclaim how non-discriminating you were? Proudly send forth your discrimination policy (if you had one?) And let’s say you’re on the conservative side of things. Well, hell—what’s wrong with a statement that says you just try to serve your customers good coffee and stay out of their politics and business?
But saying nothing at all? Pretty damn suspicious.
So I’m not jumping on the boycott bandwagon, but I’m really not feeling like getting my coffee from a place unwilling to answer these questions. Not when there are good, local coffeehouses like the Black Drop around, proudly carrying papers like the one you’re reading right now. I encourage you to ask your own questions and decide for yourself.
One last thing: In my final email, I asked if Woods would respond to customer requests to include local, alternative papers at Woods locations. No response to that, either.
To ask about their discrimination policies or request that they carry the Betty Pages, contact Woods Coffee at (360) 933-1855 or http://www.thewoodscoffee.com/contact/
Check this paper to find a list of venues that advertise in and distribute the Betty Pages.⁂