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Sex, Drugs, Corruption and a Wrongful Attack on an Oklahoma Coffee Shop

Residents of a small Oklahoma town best known for strip clubs, prostitution and police corruption are pointing fingers at a local coffee shop with an open door policy as a source of potential crime.

The Valley Brook Town of Trustees Tuesday night granted Jamie Zumwalt, the owner of Joe’s Addiction coffee shop, a three-month extension on her business license, which has been in question since some residents complained that the shop was too accommodating to homeless people and other downtrodden souls.

Valley Brook's Joe's Addiction accused of causing crime

Facebook photo. Patrons of Joe’s have been writing their stories on symbolic helping hands, displayed at the shop.

Here’s the lead from Oklahoma City’s Oklahoman:

The owner of a coffee shop in Valley Brook that unapologetically counts sex offenders, felons and others living on society’s fringes as valued customers was given a three-month extension on her business license during a heated town trustee meeting Tuesday evening.

To be clear, Zumwalt and her shop don’t support or encourage drug dealing, prostitution, vagrancy or anything of the like. It seems Zumwalt’s crime is being too accommodating to the homeless, mentally troubled, or drug- or alcohol-addicted. The shop often attracts patrons from the nearby Hands Up Ministries, a shelter area just on the outskirts of town that describes itself as a “faith-based prison aftercare program for men and women that have just been released from prison.”

In addition to operating a coffee shop that maintains an open door policy to any patrons, Zumwalt and her team regularly run programs designed to assist homeless people, including Christmas gift giveaways, free meal programs and addiction support meetings. The store operates a community garden as well as a toy store to provide needed children with toys.

According to Oklahoman reports, the outcry against the store is related to a vague sense among residents that the Joe’s Addiction patrons could make “something happen:”

Many residents believe it’s only a matter of time before something happens.

The coffee shop’s owners say they are providing nothing more than a helping hand and blame the recent public outcry on the growing transient population in Valley Brook.

John Circle, who described himself as a “20-year” resident of Valley Brook, said the influx of the sex offenders and other transients in recent years has changed his perception of the tiny town.

Circle said he has a daughter in her 20s who he described as having “the mind of a 5-year-old” due to severe autism. He said he fears it’s only a matter of time before something untold happens, either to his daughter or other vulnerable people in the town.

Despite the testimonials from residents, the town board unanimously voted to extend Zumwalt’s license for three months, with the understanding that Joe’s Addiction will be operation under a kind of probation. In a thank you to her supporters yesterday, Joe’s Addiction shared the following on their Facebook:

Thank you so much for your support! We will continue to work with the city of Valley Brook to look for solutions to the concerns of the residents and City Council. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to do business in this community that we love!

We can’t help but feel for Jamie Zumwalt, who by all accounts has tried to better her own community by welcoming, feeding, clothing, empowering and supporting her patrons. In fact, we’ve seen coffee shops in recent months being criticized for taking an entirely different approach to hospitality (the coffee shop owner who fought a “silly ass bike race” and the coffee shop manager who took a stance against the homeless come to mind).

While we may not know all the details of Joe’s Addiction’s relationship to Valley Brook, we can say unabashedly that to accuse a coffee shop’s open arms policy as being a cause for vagrancy and violent crime is to grossly confuse the issue.

We encourage those of you that are independent retail operators to reach out to Zumwalt and the team at Joe’s, if only by voicing a show of support on their Facebook wall.

Comment

9 Comments

rishi

good article, but what ppl may not know is that Valley Brook is known for all the strip clubs in the small .3 square miles town… I just think its sad that they target the coffee shop based on “what ifs” but are totally ok with the strip clubs…

bs

Who says they are ok with the strip clubs? What does one have to do with the other? why can’t residents in VB ask for safety when they see concerns? How is that an attack?

Kstocks

Good overall article – except for the “despite the testimonials from residents, the town board voted to extend Zumwalt’s license…” I was at the meeting, and there were far more testimonials for the coffee shop than against. There are just some corrupt people (and strip club owners) who drew up a confusing & misleading petition and had some town residents – including minors whose parents weren’t home – sign it. A half-truth is a whole lie. This is what happens when you have a little district run by club owners: right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right.

Citizen

A one sided travesty of an article filled with a stigma that isn’t true. The Hands Up Ministry is a community for Sex Offenders, do your research. It has nothing to do with homeless or anyone with addiction – of that were the case the methadone clinic in the area would have been included.

You fail to see the act of concerned parents concerning a close proximity to homes of families – an establishment that blatantly welcomes with open arms known sex offenders.

Thanks for spreading the stigma. You focus on bars, strip clubs and the police force – who actually do their job. But fail to recognise the risk of having a place where many sex offenders hang out near homes during daylight hours when children are out.

But sure, lets be bleeding hearts because a ministry is “being attacked” – it comes down to which ACTUAL community they want to serve.

christa harrison

Joe’s Addiction claims to be an outreach created for the residents of Valley Brook. Now the residents of Valley Brook have legitimate concerns. There is no other place for the CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS to loiter and hang out all day in Valley Brook, other then Joe’s Addiction. The townspeople asked for the ministry to move, since their targeted ministry population has changed. Why are concerned parents and grandparents getting bashed by this group just because they do good? So you feed the hungry and you give to the needy… I still don’t want you telling me I need to live with sexual predators because you feel called to minister to them. If a coffee shop moved in down the street from your house and rolled out the welcome mat for convicted sex offenders, would you feel comfortable? Give these people a break. Just because they live near strip clubs doesn’t mean they can’t ask for a safer environment, and voice concerns if they feel it is unsafe.

christa harrison

Nick Brown, you really painted a one sided picture here of Jamie being a victim of the towns attack. What attack? It sounds like she is attacking the town and the people in it who voiced concerns. So the residents signed a petition. Wouldn’t you if you lived there? What kind of parent WOULDN’T want a safe environment for their children. Keep in mind, Valley Brook is one square mile. If Joe’s shut down, the strip clubs may still be there, but I doubt the children who live nearby go inside or hang out at the strip clubs. The community would indeed be safer without Joe’s Addiction. For them to ask for their children to ride their bicycle two blocks without predators engaging with them due to Joe’s atmosphere and location isn’t an unreasonable request. Did Jamie tell you she has had some of these convicted sex offenders hand out flyers for church’s activities including children’s activities, going door to door in the neighborhoods? Did she tell you that children have been approached by one of her regulars when riding their bicycle to the nearby convenience story? Did she mention the prostitution happening behind her building for $5 from an AIDS infected regular? Just because this town has strip clubs, doesn’t give a church license to welcome sex offenders and say “tough crap, you guys are already sinners so sit back and shut up”. So she says it nicely, it is still the same message. And you Nick Brown… you just added insult to injury to the concerned parents who have a right to request safety, whether or not they live in poverty, near strip clubs, or have any other issues. Wrongful attack my ass!

bs

The town says “Hey, that’s not appropriate”. and she says “according to jesus, I’m his spokesperson and you guys live in filth anyway, so shut up and appreciate what we offer’

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