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.
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.