Customers turned out in droves Sunday
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Allie’s Donuts jumped into the middle of the conversation on racial injustice and the police when it announced Saturday on social media it would no longer offer a 10 percent discount to people in the police and military. The action follows more than a week of unrest across the country prompted by the deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of police, most recently George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
“We’re fed up. Until local police takes action to solve problems with racism & injustice, @alliesdonuts will choose to stand with the people of our great state,” read the post.
Allie’s refined its message Sunday:
Reflecting on our method of delivery, we imagine most of you were surprised by our candor. In no way did we mean to insult people & their service to our country or community… If you felt offended or insulted, Please accept our apology. We feel comfortable as a business with such wonderful customers that have respected & adored our products for over 50 years to say that we stand by our statement. It’s time to recognize the voices & stand with our fellow Black & Brown Rhode Islanders, who want to be treated equally… With love and respect, we ask our fellow Rhode Islanders, and all of the #donutfam, to take action with us. We must find ways to end systemic racism everywhere in our communities. We have decided to speak out and use our privilege to actively eliminate these things. We recognize that you may have misunderstood our meaning, and think that Allie’s doesn’t value the sacrifice and duty of police & military members. I assure you. We do.
Their message was not welcomed by everyone. Local real estate broker Greg Dantas, an Army veteran, said he supported racial justice but that Allie’s went too far in their post Saturday. “You do need to apologize to the men and women in ALL uniforms that provide us all with the freedom that many countries do not have,” he wrote on Facebook Sunday morning. By 4 p.m. Sunday, nearly 400 people had either “liked” or “loved” his post, and most of the 279 comments on his post were in agreement.
But at Allie’s on Sunday, the line for doughnuts wrapped around the building and stretched down the sidewalk all morning. Those near the front said they’d been in line for 90 minutes. Many of them held signs – “Black Lives Matter” and “End Police Brutality” – that were passed from customer to customer. According to one of the Allie’s employees, an earlier customer had brought them and handed them out.
“This is more than taking discounts from police and military. This is a chance to stand on the right side of history to hold those accountable,” said Sam Ojih of Providence as he waited to buy doughnuts.
Aaron Kenyon of West Kingston wore a Marine t-shirt – he said he’d served active duty for six years. He said he’s a frequent Allie’s customer but said he’d come Sunday specifically to support a local business. He said he was “not at all” offended by Allie’s decision to revoke the 10 percent discount.
“We don’t serve for discounts. We serve to keep Americans safe. If they’re not safe, why would you care more about a discount? It’s disgusting to me, that Americans can die and they care more about a 10 percent discount for a doughnut,” he said of the people who were angry at Allie’s.
Brittni Howard of New London, Conn., came Sunday specifically to support the business.
“If people are dying and nothing’s being done, the message is not being heard. I’m here to show support because this is something I personally have dealt with,” she said, adding, “I do have family in the military and they agree.”
Rodney Newton of Providence said he didn’t even like doughnuts but decided to join his friends after reading Allie’s posts. In particular, he said he liked Allie’s message on Sunday. “The original message, it just wasn’t well put together. But then today’s message … I think that was well put together so they got my support 100 percent.”
Longtime Allie’s employee Jennifer Lentino said she was proud of the stance Allie’s had taken. “This has been the greatest crowd. We’ve had people here just to donate,” she said. According to a sign posted in on one of the windows, all the proceeds from Sunday would be donated to local organizations that work for justice and opportunity (RI Communities for Justice, Providence Student Union, and Amos House).
Allie’s owners, the Drescher family, declined to comment Sunday beyond their social media posts.