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10/2/09-by Sue Kerr
In what has to be one of the strangest branding strategies in recent memory, a local donut shop Peace, Love and Little Donuts has opened up in Pittsburgh’s Strip District with a sort of hippie/love/peace theme.
Meanwhile, the owner, Ron Razete, has been blogging about his very conservative, Christian-based, anti-gay views. He’s also opposed to the welfare state, Democrats, liberals, welfare, President Obama, the concept of systemic racism, and pretty much the rest of what’s often referred to as the “wingnut” social position.
A sample of his post-Inaugural blogging:
This crowd will not rest until Homosexuality is mainstream; until the Second Amendment is done away with; until abortion on demand is as common and accepted as going to the dentist; until sexual images and strip clubs line our streets and suburbs; until government education is started in the womb; until disagreement with their political party is “hate speech” and becomes a crime; until they pass the Fairness Doctrine and rid the county of Conservative talk radio; until they transfer our sovriegnty to the UN, etc. etc. etc.
This contradiction has caught the attention of Pittsburgh’s LGBT community via a local “queer events” discussion list where commenters shared a common disguest for the underlying hypocrisy of a bait and switch lure to secure progressive dollars, particularly pink dollars. List members and allies began blogging, commenting on his blog and basically spreading the word using new social media to educate the rest of Pittsburgh.
Several local queer women went to a restaurant review site, The Urban Spoon, to share their thoughts on the business. Almost immediately, the site owners began removing these comments, including those of this writer. The Urban Spoon’s Janet Becquey commented:
We prohibit certain things from reviews, including profanity, personal attacks, and legal issues. It’s possible that your review was in violation of one of those things. Negative reviews are perfectly fine, however – so we encourage you to re-post your review (after re-wording to avoid violating our policies).
The Urban Spoon terms of service. Ms. Becquey has thus far declined to comment on the allegation that the site is targeting comments originating from the LGBT community.
Mr. Razete has privatized his blog. The cache is here and indicates that Mr. Razete is aware of the criticism and continues to post. One can’t help but wonder how he is reacting to the attention. His rating on The Urban Spoon has sunk from an approval rating of more than 70% to the mid-40s, no doubt a reflection of the community response to his branding scam.
The issue is complicated. Certainly, some of the very members of the LGBT community crying “foul” are guilty of patronizing businesses that would not make the HRC‘s Top 100 for their gay friendly practices. Others contribute to the coffers of hate mongerers with world views similar to Mr. Razete, perhaps unknowingly to be fair. Is it fair to target a small business owner, even a self-styled elitest who clearly devalues the most basic civil rights of his customers?
A better strategy for Pittsburgh’s LGBT community might be to focus our money and word of mouth efforts to promote LGBT owned and allied businesses. The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh has plans to produce an updated print version of Pride Direct, a local pink pages. Several local sites maintain lists of these companies. We can utilize everything from the email list to Facebook to get referrals.
When it comes to donuts, in fact, there is an ally owned bakery across the bridge with a wide array of baked goods who has proven to be a friend to the LGBT community over the years.