I have been reading the stories. People becoming angry and verbally assaulting employees of restaurants and grocery stores as a result of mandated face-mask laws. Sometimes it has resorted in violence. As the owner of The Coffee Shelf, I have remained interested in these stories. Yet each time I naively thought, “this won’t happen in Chapin.”
Today I was proven just how naive I have been. At this point I would like to thank the Chapin Police Department for their swift action and assistance.
I am a proud member of my community. Running The Coffee Shelf for almost 4 ½ years, it has always been more than about just serving coffee. We all know one another. I often muse with my family how time consuming it can be to walk through Publix or Food Lion without engaging in more than one conversation with my customers, who I consider friends. Time consuming, but a pleasant experience each time.
Throughout this pandemic, since late March, our customers have embodied everything which is so amazing about Chapin. They have all supported us fully as we have navigated the different rules thrust upon us.
I was taking the morning off today when I received a phone call from one of my employees, telling me about an irate customer and the police being on the way. I hopped in my car.
Any of my customers reading this know I am an approachable person. If there is a policy you do not like or understand, we can have a conversation and find common ground.
Beyond being a member of our community, I am also a citizen of the United States, and a former Marine, having served for 20 years.
Why do I bring this up? Because I get it. I understand the frustrations we all feel at being told what we must wear, and how we must act. What I fail to understand, what I will never understand, is why a person would take those frustrations out on young employees, frightening them and a customer to the point of the police being phoned.
When I arrived I was greeted by a police officer. Once inside my store, I spoke with the customer who had phoned the police. She informed me she was still shaking. The end result is that two people have been banned from my store, and issued trespassing notices from the Chapin Police Department.
It did not have to end this way.
If the customers, being irate at a policy enacted by our governor, had asked to speak with me, we could have come to an understanding. We could have worked this out. I currently have a customer who suffers from PTSD and can not wear a mask. He is welcome, and we keep a distance of over 6 feet. Easy solution.
From my heart to my community. This is not about someone wearing or not wearing a mask. I promise you it is not about that. This is about frightening my employees.
When I arrived the police officer asked me if I wanted to hear their side of the story. I said no, without hesitation. From my position that ship had sailed. When the actions of someone frightens my employees to the point of police involvement, it becomes cut and dry.
The police officer informed me they had just come from another incident, almost identical to what transpired at The Coffee Shelf. Why is this happening in our small town?
I understand if you are frustrated about the face-mask requirements. I will work with you in a calm conversation. Please reach out to me and hold me to my word on this.
But allow me to be perfectly clear. If you are the type of person who will yell at employees, who are merely trying to make a paycheck, then do not come to my place of business. Even after this pandemic is over, maybe next year or whenever, if you are that type of person then do not ever come to my place of business.
My employees come before my revenue. Their safety and comfort means more to me than anything else having to do with running a business. I will close down The Coffee Shelf before I place my employees in an unsafe environment.
I task my community with the following. Be kind. Disagree with every small business and their policies. That is fine. Simply be kind.