Last Wednesday night, a Facebook post called out Strange Brew Coffeehouse for firing an employee at the Tupelo location over text message after the employee allegedly ate a pastry and did not pay for it.
The original Facebook post, made by Robin Umphers Jackson, the terminated employee's mother, included screenshots of a text message conversation where the owner confronted an employee about eating a pastry at 5:30 a.m. and not paying for it at the end of her shift. The employee apologized and said she would pay for it. However, the owner replied that the individual's employment would be terminated.
The Facebook post received hundreds of reactions and over 1,000 comments before Jackson deleted it.
Strange Brew said the original post was not factual.
After a few hours, Jackson issued a statement saying she appreciated the support she and her daughter received, but she never meant for the post to gain so much traction.
"I had no intention of boycotting or shutting down a local small business," Jackson stated. "I didn't ask anyone to unlike their page or leave bad reviews."
In the same statement, Jackson wrote she did not think Strange Brew treated some employees fairly.
"But I think that Strange Brew needs to reconsider their policies regarding how they treat their employees. And apparently this is not the only time this and other questionable behavior has happened there," Jackson wrote.
The Reflector reached out to the terminated employee, but she declined an interview.
Former Strange Brew employees commented on the Facebook post claiming similar issues happened to them with the owners. Evidently, the owners terminated another employee by text message after she ate a pastry and forgot to pay for it.
Strange Brew made a brief social media post a couple hours after Jackson's post. They said they love their employees and want to take care of them, especially during the coronavirus pandemic and the recent ice storms. They finished their original statement by saying there was more than one side to the story and thst it is more complicated than it seems.
The coffee shop posted the statement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and it received hundreds of likes, shares and comments on each platform. The Tupelo and Starkville locations' Facebook posts each amassed over 1,500 reactions, 3,000 comments and over 300 shares.
Allegations of racism at Strange Brew arose Wednesday on social media. One of Strange Brew's owners allegedly sent a racist text message to an employee that assumed a Black worker stole money that was missing out of a tip jar at Strange Brew.
Strange Brew said the accusations were completely false, and someone fabricated the text message.
The Reflector contacted Katelyn Reed, one of Strange Brew's owners, and she directed The Reflector to Strange Brew's official statement on Facebook.
The statement, posted on Thursday afternoon, said Strange Brew had received countless threats and harassment online due to false allegations.
"These social media posts are false, malicious, and hurtful for all of us at Strange Brew, and they are offensive to our community as well. People attacking us should know the truth. To be perfectly clear — we have never sent racist texts or had similar conversations in the history of our shop. That is not who we are, and we stand against hate in all forms," Strange Brew stated.
Strange Brew continued the statement by saying they did not terminate the employees because of a minor issue; it was a much larger issue than it appears to the public.
Both sides of the story had support across social media. Accounts under the names Sandra Patterson and Leslie Smith Hollowell voiced their support in the Facebook comments.
"I'll be there tomorrow and can't wait for my 'Rainy Day' latte! I have loved Strange Brew since it opened and social media 'outrage' is not going to change that! Keep doing what you're doing, Strange Brew!" Sandra Patterson said in a comment.
Leslie Smith Hollowell echoed this sentiment.
"I love Strange Brew and can't wait to get coffee this week!!"
Others were not so happy with the controversy. Accounts under the names of Nicole Strawbridge and Stormie Taylor Downey expressed their disappointment in the comments.
"You went out of your way to fire an employee for a simple mistake," Nicole Strawbridge commented.
"How unprofessional! I'll never be back," Stormie Taylor Downey commented.
Strange Brew Coffeehouse is still open amidst the allegations. They concluded their statement by saying they have loved and enjoyed serving Mississippi for 15 years, and they will continue to be open in Tupelo and Starkville.