COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A Merion Village bakery has reopened after racist threats forced the black-owned business to temporarily shut its doors.
When Bake Me Happy welcomed customers back Tuesday, staff was greeted with supportive messages and stacks of new orders.
“I think that’s been the most overwhelming thing has been the community support we received afterwards,” said manager Nikole Meadows.
Meadows was working Sunday when the shop received a phone call from someone using racial slurs and threatening violence.
“Being a visible minority business, you do expect that there is a fringe community that doesn’t like that you exist,” Meadows said. “Typically I’d expect that to be kind of in the shadows and pushed off to the side. The fact that they felt like they could call us and talk to us that way was a little surprising. We normally feel pretty safe here.”
Bake Me Happy co-owner Letha Pugh explained the situation and reason for the shop’s abrupt closure on social media. Within a half hour of the post, supportive customers completely bought out the business’s Dublin Bridge Park location. Several hours later, others had left anonymous, heart-shaped messages on the front doors and windows of the Merion Village store.
Over the next several days, staff said they received numerous pre-orders as well as gift cards and tip money from donors around the country.
“That was mind-blowing,” said Meadows. “I’ve never had strangers just reach out to us, ask us if we were okay and send us money.”
Tuesday, customers were driving from out of town to support the bakery.
“If we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the under belly of the community, we won’t move forward. So we have to still be strong, we have to make a stand,” said Christina Ballenger, who drove from Pickerington to patronize the store for the first time.
Westerville resident Sandy Roseman added, “I was so upset about what happened to them the other day. It’s ridiculous. I’m just tired of the hate.”
A post Monday night from owners on the Bake Me Happy Facebook page said, “We feel your love and support and hope that you always speak up when you see something that is not right.”
Patrons Tuesday said they planned to show the business there is more love than hate in the community.
“This is who we are. We’re a community, we rally, we come together and support each other,” said Ballenger.
The Columbus Urban League told NBC4 this week it was concerned other minority owned businesses may be facing similar treatment and are afraid to come forward. Both the organization and the Columbus Police Department encourage anyone receiving racist threats to document and report any incidents.