Town boycotts music store for its gay-friendly stance
Mason, Michigan--After helping a student gay-straight alliance with their float in the Mason High School Homecoming Parade last fall, an independent music store in this small town 15 miles south of Lansing says it's being boycotted for being gay friendly.
In the days following the parade, business at Davey's Basement, located at 448 South Jefferson St., dropped drastically.
"I mean, literally, the door didn't even open for two days," said Teri Yale, who opened the store a year ago. "We didn't even make a sale. I said, 'This is weird. What's going on?' Finally, one kid came in and said they had heard a rumor at school that some parents had told their kids they couldn't come in here because we support gays."
For Yale, who grew up in San Francisco, that support was a non-issue.
"My parents were not prejudiced," she said. "They were so tolerant of everybody . . . if you were a good person, that's all that counted. I thank my parents for raising me like that, and that's how I tried to raise my own kids."
Yale has a lesbian daughter and a brother-in-law who's gay. Since opening Davey's Basement, which takes it name from Davey Havok, the lead singer of the punk band AFI, and the basement in That �70s Show, Yale has supported several charities--gay and straight--including Michigan Pride. She has also stocked a small selection of rainbow stickers and Pride merchandise without incident.
So in September, when students from the Mason High School GSA approached her and asked for help with their parade float, Yale's support was a given. She donated the use of her company van and trailer, and her husband even took a day off work to drive it over to the school. Meanwhile, her daughter Becky personally helped set up and decorate the float.
"We really didn't think it would be an issue, but apparently it was," said Yale, who is no stranger to controversy. She's cool with the fact that replicating the classic head shop setting from her youth --"Other than the fact that we don't have the drug paraphernalia, this is what I grew up with in San Francisco"--and her specialty of alternative music has caused her shop to be considered a misfit in Mason. But she's shocked that it's her support of gays that's threatening to shut her down.
"As the first week passed following the parade and we went into the second week and we didn't see the regulars, it was like, 'What's going on here?' It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you're being boycotted. One of the kids who comes in, she told us her friend couldn't come in because her mother had threatened to ground her.�
"We had another customer come in, and he wanted to know what the GSA stood for," Yale continued. "I explained it to him and he said he wouldn't be back. He said, 'I don't go to Target any more because of their association with the gays.' I thought, 'Dude, if that's why you don't go to Target, you've got some issues.' It's like, oh my God! This so terrible."
Prior to the parade incident, business had been on the upswing. September was the store's second most profitable month since opening. In October, sales hit a record low. Still, Yale is determined to stay the course.
"We've been accused of all kinds of things, but I'm more concerned with the fact that it really hurt the kids," she said. "The kids like coming in here, but if the parents tell them, 'You can�t go in there because they support gay people,' what kind of message is it sending them? It's just perpetuating the ignorance.
"I plan on sticking it out as long as I can. I'm not the kind of person to just pick up and run. I'm really pissed. The parents aren't admitting to anything, but every kid in this town knows about it. If they win, and literally run me out of town, who's next after me?"
While Yale had high hopes for the holiday season, those were not met. Though she was relying on December to bring her business back, it was a slow Christmas at Davey�s Basement.
However, word of the boycott was picked up by bloggers, and Yale�s store has become a cause c�l�bre. Pro-gay writers are pointing out on their websites that people can order from Yale online at www.daveysbasement.com, and the band Minor Planets from Ann Arbor has planned a January 20 benefit concert with some other bands to raise money for the store in what it being called an �Anti-Hate Benefit.�
Meanwhile, Yale still has to decide on the fate of her store. One option that is looking increasingly good is moving to nearby Lansing, the state capital.
�If we can raise enough funds at this show and can find a building that would be big enough and still be affordable, I�m all for it,� Yale said, noting that Minor Planets �have been absolutely incredible. I�ll never be able to thank them enough.
This story was originally published in the Michigan LGBT weekly Between the Lines. Gay People�s Chronicle staff reporter Anthony Glassman contributed to it.