BLM, LGBTQ Issues Cause Fleishers Closure

The abrupt closure of Fleishers Craft Butchery — temporarily “through August,” according to a sign in the Riverside Avenue window — surprised Westporters.

The reason may be even more surprising.

The New York Post reports that “dozens of workers reportedly walked off the job after the CEO removed Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride signs that employees had put in the storefront windows.” The story was first reported by Forbes.

The closure affects 4 stores: 2 each in Connecticut and New York.

According to the Post, the issue began last month. “Rob Rosania, a leading investor in the butcher, received a text from a pal in Westport, Conn. who was offended by BLM signs in the company’s local storefront, Forbes reported.”

The Fleishers signs on Riverside Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Chloe Sorvino, for Forbes)

“Rosania, a San Francisco-based real estate developer, reportedly called Fleisher’s CEO John Adams and told him to get rid of the signs.

“Adams, who’s just two months into the job, jumped on a train from New York to Fleisher’s stores in Westport and Greenwich to remove the signs himself, according to Forbes.”

As of yesterday, the signs hung in Fleishers’ Westport window.

At least half of Fleishers workforce are people of color, non-binary or LGBTQ, the Post says.

Click here for the full Forbes story; click here for the full New York Post story.

63 responses to “BLM, LGBTQ Issues Cause Fleishers Closure

  1. Michael Kaplan

    I find it angering and also incredibly sad that a fellow Westport resident started this brouhaha over finding a BLM sign offensive. He has brought shame to our town.

  2. Jack Backiel

    Let me get this straight. So all four businesses are closed and not making money? Sometimes you have think things through before acting. Westport is the type of town whereby if they get pissed off at something, they could boycott a store and put them out of business! Fleishers Craft Butchery needs Westport more than Westport needs Fleishers Craft Butchery.

  3. Jack Backiel

    Let’s boycott the store and put them out of business! We have a lot of important people in this town too. Maybe we can take the boycott to TV and nationally? Do you hear that Alisyn Camerota from Westport? Do a segment on your TV show!

  4. Wow.. perfectly happy to shop elsewhere. Kudos to these employees for standing up for themselves.

  5. A lot of Westport businesses are owned by Trump supporters and donors. I won’t patronize them, and I wish other Westporters would follow suit. Google “open secrets” and “advanced search,” fill in the prompts for the zip code and the candidate you loathe, and you’ll see a surprising list of deep-pocketed neighbors who support right-wing hatred.

  6. Bill Strittmatter

    No loss. Their prices were insane. After stopping in one time, I concluded they existed only to come up with a list of customers names to line up and shoot (or send off to re-education camps) when the revolution came.

  7. Jack Backiel

    I don’t want to make this a Trump thing. Let’s stick to what was done and bring these businesses to their knees financially! Trump supporters can boycott these businesses too.

  8. Hmmm. I see that Saugautuck Sweets has a large “Unmask the kids” sign in front of their Fairfield store. Will the science followers now boycott the flat earth supporters?

    • Actually, my wife and I were backed up in traffic approaching the Post Rd in downtown Fairfield recently and noticed that sign. We were stunned. Dan, since you publicize Saugatuck Sweets and its wonderful charitable endeavors from time to time, I would be curious to hear Al’s explanation for that. If it turns out he is taking a public stand against the recommendations of public health experts at this critical time on how to respond to the virus, then, yes, we will not patronize his stores.

      • Al DiGuido is very much a Republican supporter.

        • Being a member of any particular party has no bearing on me. But taking a position against the recommendations of public health specialists in how to respond to the pandemic—especially with respect to kids—would matter a great deal to me.

      • Just because someone is charitable, does not mean they are decent, responsible political will get you ten that Al is a Trump supporter.

        • Al DiGuido gave $237 to Donald Trump on August 24, August 27, and September 27 of 2020.

    • Last time I was at Saugatuck Sweets I overheard a conversation about why Al wasn’t there – turns out he was getting really worked up and stressed out over people who were still wearing their masks (this was June). I still plan to patronize the store, it’s good stuff and I like to support local businesses, but… you can be damn sure I’ll be wearing a mask, just in the hopes of seeing Al so I can stare him down. He won’t even know I’m smirking thinking about how dumb it is to stress out about what others are wearing. I want to get a mask that says “Vaxxed and Masked, Deal With It.”

      That and it’s time to mask up again when entering public indoor spaces anyway.

      If I go to Fleishers I’ll have to get a BLM mask.

  9. Gloria Gouveia

    With a name like John Adams –one of our greatest patriots of all time—we can only hope that he honors his namesake and rises to the occasion and makes amends.

  10. Abby gordon-tolan

    We have a problem with equity in our town. It is time our town deals with it. We like to believe we are a socially liberal town, when in fact much of the town is not. Let’s be better and do better.

  11. Elaine Marino

    If I were a business owner, I would make it a policy not to display signs that could in any way be considered “polarizing.” I wasn’t aware of Fleischer’s signs or Saugatuck Sweet’s sign, and can only ask “Is it worth it?”

    • Michael Pettee

      Not to be dense, but it is hard to understand that someone would put a Black Lives Matter sign in the category of “polarizing.”
      If one pole is that black lives matter equally and deserve equal treatment by the police forces sworn to protect and serve them, then what might the other pole be?

      • Elaine Marino

        I fully support eradicating racism and bigotry in our society, but I do not support the organization Black Lives Matter. I do not view this organization as a promoter of peace and unity in our country. Please read some of the comments made by a founder of the Greater NY Chapter of Black Lives Matter, Hawk Newsome:

        “‘On a recent late afternoon in the South Bronx, the 43-year-old activist agreed to meet a Post reporter just after giving a heated interview to Fox News that went viral. In it he said that if BLM protesters didn’t get what they wanted, ‘They will burn down the system.’

        ‘We don’t want white people here,’ Newsome told The Post, still fired up as he walked near Yankee Stadium, gesturing at the majestic pre-war apartments on the Grand Concourse and a brilliant sunset.

        ‘We don’t want white people coming in and raising our rents. You can’t be a supporter of black people if you come gentrify their neighborhoods. Stay the f–k out of our communities.’

        He revealed that his mother Doris was a Black Panther member who met his dad at a civil rights rally in 1969, but she rarely talked about her activism.

        His vision for the Bronx is similarly militant — a black and brown sovereign nation with its own self-policing force.

        ‘Black and brown guys that join the [NYPD]?’ he said. ‘You can’t trust ‘em. They go blue as soon as they become cops and the blue line is ruled by white men. We don’t want them here telling our people what to do.’”

        • This is a courageous post and deserves notice. NOT because BLM is dangerous to whites but because BLM (and the “fist” BLM sign itself) is deleterious to the BLM CAUSE. Signs such as the Fleisher one and statements as quoted by Ms. Marino, damage the cause of racial equality and actually will, in the end, get Trump or his acolyte elected in 2024 and Trumpians elected in 2022. The purpose is laudatory, the methods, dysfunctional to the laudatory cause.

  12. Political and social beliefs aside, good example of why businesses are best left to act with ZERO signs and social directives on display. Also why CEO’s should NOT use their “bully pulpit” to (often) espouse their personal point of view while projecting it from their company. I know some feel that businesses should become more socially active and IMO there are reasonable ways to do that. But allowing employees to post signs in windows will often bring polarizing energy, despite the good intentions. No reason a business can’t treat everyone well and respectfully without having to wear it on their sleeves. In the end, Fleishers was simply trying to sell meat!

    • Chris Washington

      Very well said. Perfectly logical. Respectful. Common sense.

      • Gloria Gouveia

        Good point, Mark.
        If Adams had been wise enough to send out a bulletin advising all stores that posting anything on store windows requires company approval, this would have been a shorter and less public tale.

    • Bruce J Kent

      Nah…… all the other companies trying to virtue signal that they are more woke than thee, the signs were not an issue…………………………

      Until they became an issue with folks who believe differently (perish the thought) than 99% of people on this thread.

  13. Susan Iseman

    Animals lives matter.

  14. Jack Backiel

    Elaine, The problem here is that the owner let the signs be displayed, and then was forced to remove them because of a call from Robert Rosania. Of course if the signs weren’t displayed in the first place, there couldn’t be a problem that surfaced. So Adams was pressured by Rob Rosania. Adams should now do the smart thing and put the signs back and let this settle down because something like this can catch fire and go viral.The downside is incalculable.

    • Bill Steittmatter

      Too late. The linked articles said he did just that. It apparently didn’t work.

  15. Adam Vengrow

    Westport really is an awesome town that gives to so many causes. I would probably say more people are supported through the efforts of the majority in westport than most all other towns in the state. Look through how many organizations are provided for here. Like everything in life, a lack of judgement here should not characterize the town of westport, nor turn it into trump supporters vs liberals. The majority of people in this town are good.

  16. Dave Donnelly

    As a business owner and an angel investor, I learned long ago that your businesses are nothing without your employees.

    Supporting good causes (I.e., BLM and LGBTQ) enriches the top line and bottom line. That seems to be lost on the investor.

  17. Jack Backiel

    I just googled Rob Rosania and I find it hard to believe that a guy with so many irons in the fire would actually take the time to make a phone call about two signs. It’d be like the CEO of Starbucks calling a store in Georgia to tell the manager to move a mouse trap in his store.(I have to be reaching a limit for comments.)

    • His racist, intolerant friend (who unfortunately lives here) was incensed and rather than push back he went with that friend. Shows his true colors. Shame.

  18. Michael Mossman

    Posting those signs showed support for the employees and this community’s values. Removing them only served to set this business against those values, its own employees and our community. Whining about “wokeness” seems to be the canned response when people who don’t see a problem with racial injustice and sexual discrimination are called out.

    Imagine if brave business owners in Germany had posted “Jewish Lives Matter” in the mid-1930’s. Would we have tolerated apologists for anti-Semitism who “believed differently?” Standing publicly against bigotry is more than “virtue signaling.” It is virtuous. BLM and LGBTQ rights are our issue in this place at this time. Taking a stand for your values is brave just as cowering in the face of intimidation is weak.

    If you believe in something, feel free to stand up for it! And please support businesses that support us (all).

  19. A manager who supports his or her staff? A sign advocating fewer police murders of Black people? A sign with the LGBTQ rainbow? THESE are the things that get people upset? What fucking planet is this?

    • Good question, Tom. BUT, the BLM sign could have been just “BLM” and NOT the threatening fist..which is what did it in, I feel certain.

      • After centuries of forced labor, rape, lynchings, and beatings, Black people are entitled to some comparably tame graphic-design choices.

  20. James Waldron

    Perhaps the title of this post should have read, `Westport Resident Issue Cause Fleishers Closing?

  21. I agree 100% with Michael. The signs let people who are not in the majority in Westport know that they are safe and welcome, full stop. For those of us who hold one of those identities or who are allies and advocates to those communities, it is an immeasurable relief and joy to see those posters. It’s a privileged community using their privilege to make everyone feel they belong.

  22. Marsha Maroney

    What’s unfortunate (and lost in all the dialog above) is that the real people who are going to suffer are all of the local farms that Craft Butchery sources its products from. I was a regular customer there — and more than willing to pay their high prices, because guess what, cost of living up here is outrageously high, and I’m a strong believer in supporting local farmers.

    I guess most of you would prefer to get your meats from the major supermarkets who sell industrial inhumanely raised meats, from factories that are incredibly bad for the environment.

    And I guess all the vacant store fronts on Main St aren’t enough, and people now want vacant store fronts in Saugatuck.

    Frankly I find most of this criticism hypocritical because whenever a topic like low income housing comes up, or simply allowing out-of-towners at Compo, people are more than willing to push back on increasing diversity. But God forbid 2 signs get taken down…

    I really hope they reopen. At least half their workforce are people of color, non-binary or LGBTQ. Clearly the company values and embraces diversity, they don’t need signs to virtue signal.

  23. I was so upset by this that I put a sign up on Fleishers window asking for signatures and listing the email and phone number for fleishers so people can make their opinions know. Please head down and sign!!

    • You vandalized personal property? I’m sorry, but you had absolutely no right to put your sign on property you do not own. What you did was illegal. Feel free to protest on public land, but you had no right to trespass and vandalize private property.

      • I posted the sign in the spirit of peaceful protest and in a way that, to my mind, was similar to laying flowers or a stuffed animal in a public place to commemorate, or stand in solidarity, with someone who has been harmed or wronged. Tape and paper were in no way meant to harm anyone. Thank you for pointing out your perspective; hopefully the gesture will be received in the way it was intended and only good will come of it.

  24. Here’s an idea: everyone go down to Fleishers and post a BLM message or sign on the storefront!

    We want our friendly Fleishers staff back in Westport… and we want them empowered.

    • Comments that promote illegal behavior must be removed/deleted immediately. Breaking the law is not right.

  25. Michael Kaplan

    Someone needs to take the stick out of their buttocks. Scotch taping a flyer or a piece paper on a vacant storefront is far from vandalism. This is an act of civil disobedience at best. Post the signs. This is good trouble for a righteous cause. Would the previous commenter be aghast at the lunch counter sit ins during the 60’s because it broke the law? Get over your self-righteous misguided indignation.

  26. Elaine Marino

    This NY Eater article about Fleisher’s includes an interview with the (former) Westport store assistant manager, Christopher Edmonds:

    • Thank you for posting this article, it was very informative.

      So basically, this is simply a case of an unsustainable business model that was never able to turn a profit, and was eventually going to go bankrupt and shut down.

      This has nothing to do with BLM or LGBTQ+ issues, so people can put their pitchforks and scotch tape away and calm down. No need to protest; it’s unlikely they’ll be able to re-open.

      Maybe Match can now expand into that space and offer more seating.

  27. Elaine Marino

    A Brooklyn Magazine article includes an interview with a former employee named Divone Thompson, who was the manager at the Westport store:

    “After talking to Rosania, Adams traveled to the Fleishers in Westport, according to Divone Thompson, the shop’s longtime manager, and others familiar with the incident. Thompson, who was working at another job, was in the middle of a shift when Adams asked to meet him at Fleishers.

    When Thompson first saw Adams, he says the CEO looked ‘disoriented’ and ‘not like himself,’ with a ‘look on his face that he’s going to deliver news he doesn’t want to.’

    Adams, says Thompson, described the conversation with Rosania. Thompson, who is Black, says he was incredulous. Around half of the Fleishers staff at that time were Black or non-white—including three of four shop managers—or identified as queer or non-binary.

    While working in the Westport Fleishers, Thompson says he experienced racism from customers, and viewed the signs ‘as a shield for myself, and for my colleagues who are part of the Pride community.’ In the months they were up, he recalled no other complaints, and had seen some customers take photos in apparent support.”

  28. John D McCarthy

    Rupert, please use your real name when commenting

  29. Elaine Marino

    Mr. Thompson told the Brooklyn Magazine staff person that he had experienced racism at the Westport store. It would have been helpful to have more specific information about Mr. Thompson’s experiences, so we could learn from them,

    Readers may remember a February 14, 2020 “Letter to the Editor” of Westport Now by Staples student Niah Michel, where she described specific incidents of racism that she experienced or was aware of at Staples, including:

    “Although some black people live in Westport, we are always asked “if we live in Bridgeport,’ ‘If this is our real hair,’ ‘If we can give out the Ni**a or Ni**er” pass.’

    Several guidance counselors have told the Hispanics females at school ‘they couldn’t wear the same outfits as the white girls because we had too much to show.’“

    I am not sure how Staples followed up on this young lady’s concerns, but the fact that guidance counselors (adults) were included in her grievance, made me wonder about this was handled. Dan: Do you know?

    • James Waldron

      Dan is paid by Staples. Don’t expect him to drop a dime on any fellow Staples staff. Your question is answered by, ‘sshhhh, Elaine will go away…’

    • 😲😲 how about Westport providing more avenues for more realistic housing opportunities for folks who are asked if they live in Bridgeport because of their skin color(if true, sad question in this day and age), and what their hair feels like? Hope that wasn’t a real question… where you all live side by side and listen to each other? Then you can begin some authentic healing conversations. Just sayin. We all, in different parts of the country live more side by side with brothers and sisters of various backgrounds. If those are truly your Westport values as youbqre saying then do it!

  30. Dick Lowenstein

    How come no one has thrown Ben and Jerry’s corporate actions into the conversation? Just asking. 🙂

    • Michael Kaplan

      I don’ t think B&J took down BLM or LBGTQ signs down or did I miss something? I bet you are talking about their refusal to sell their ice cream in the West Bank, but I don’t see a correlation between these two separate issues. We are Westport and not the West Bank (thank goodness). Our values in Westport are adamantly opposed to what the owner of Fleischer’s did.

  31. Michael, let’s say that you are a business owner. You support BLM and LB GTQ causes and post messages of your support in your store front window. You employ people who do not agree with your position or the public display of BLM or LBGTQ messages. Your employees ask you to take down the messages. What do you do?

    • Good question, B Franklin. In fact I do not need to imagine, as I AM the (co-) owner of a small business and we do support BLM and LGBTQ+ people and issues, (though we do not have a store front with windows). And the answer is very easy and clear. And it is stated in our employee handbook and in the employments agreements signed by both W2 and contract employees, who work for us. You may not work here if you do not treat all people with respect, and dignity. Failure to do so is grounds for discipline or termination.

      Further, if employees do not agree with our messages on treating people with respect we would not hire them in the first place.

      You did not ask about customers. But I can tell you that we did part ways with a client on a multi-year very large and profitable project because we did not concur with our client on issues of marriage equality.

      More: I/we have noticed that “younger employees” are much more engaged, wise, and sensitive to issues of workplace respect than my own age group peers. And unlike a few years ago they are more in demand and can easily move to another agency. In my experience, your example of employees not agreeing with our level of support for LGBTQ or BLM issues is not even close to reality. Reality is that (our) employees expect a much higher level of respect, and this applies not only to signage, but to basic everyday language and SOPs as well.

      • Michael Pettee

        I accidently cut my own last name on entering and there are two Michael’s here. Michae = Michael Pettee