You might think that the local coffee shop would be a safe haven from political prejudice, a place where people could gather together in a shared love for their daily brew. But in recent years, the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks, has often been at the center of partisan controversy, such as a controversial April 2018 arrest in a Philadelphia store.
Then, things got heated in a Starbucks in Tempe, Arizona, on July 4, 2019, where a customer repeatedly approached a barista about being anxious of police officers waiting in line for their drinks. According to the Tempe Officers’ Association, “The barista said that a customer ‘did not feel safe’ because of the police presence.” The officers tweeted that “The barista asked the officers to move out of the customer’s line of sight or to leave.”
2/4 and stood together having a cup of coffee before their long 4th of July shift. They were approached by a barista, who knew one of the officers by name, because he is a regular at that location. The barista said that a customer “did not feel safe” because of the police…
— Tempe Officers Association (@ToaAz) July 6, 2019
The officers, who were “disappointed,” did indeed leave, but the story was shared on social media and quickly went viral. Forty miles north of Tempe, in Anthem, Arizona, the owners of coffee shop and live music venue Amped decided to respond.
As owners and married couple Keith and Janine Walashek wrote to the Western Journal, they opened their coffee shop in June 2018 with the idea of having a welcoming hub in the neighborhood. “We wanted to start a business in our community that would fill a void,” Janine explained. “We wanted a place where people feel good just being here.”
The coffee shop has served all kinds of customers, as well as having live music competitions, trivia nights, and first responder appreciation events. When the Walasheks heard about the officers turned away from Starbucks, they wanted to do something to let police know they are appreciated by the community.
It's been a full house the last few weeks! Either our snowbirds are back or more people discovered @ampedcoffeeco this…
Keith Walashek told the Western Journal, “It occurred to me that we as a society, as business owners, as Christians, need to do a better job at defending those that are willing to lay down their lives for us.” For the Walasheks, it’s not political; it’s personal. One of their sons is a police officer in the nearby Phoenix metro area.
“Being the parents of a police officer is not an easy thing to be,” Keith wrote. “Not a day goes by that we don’t wonder if our child will return safely to his wife and children, when we say ‘I love you’ we don’t know if that is the last ‘I love you.’”
When they put their heads together, the Walasheks decided to do something radical. They were going to give police officers a massive discount—in fact, they wouldn’t have to pay for their coffee at all, as was announced on July 6, 2019, via Facebook.
Little did they know this “very small token,” as they described it on Facebook, would garner a lot of positive attention on social media. To date, the post has over 1,200 likes and 575 shares. One Facebook user definitely understood the Walasheks’ perspective. “Thank you Amped!” they wrote. “As parents who have a son in the police academy, we appreciate your support of our law enforcement!”
When asked if this was their way of highlighting their difference with Starbucks, the Walasheks said they had no intention of generating any controversy. “Our decision to offer free coffee to any Police Officer that came in was not intended to be a political move,” Keith told the Western Journal. Nor was it a “dig at any other business and it certainly wasn’t to profit off a bad situation as some have suggested.”
Calling all Police Officers, Amped Coffee and ALL of its employees want you to know that we are so thankful for how…
What really mattered to them was that police officers in the area and online knew they were supported by the communities they are tasked with keeping safe. As for Starbucks, the company has since apologized to the Tempe police, and both sides have attempted to patch up the misunderstanding.
“We hope that out of this unfortunate moment there comes a welcome dialogue, one that more closely unites the men and women on the front lines of police work with the communities we serve and protect,” the Officers’ Association posted on Facebook.
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