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Owners of Thunder Bay coffee shop overwhelmed by community support after receiving hateful homophobic letter

Mar 06, 2022 06:31AM ● By Editor
Over 100 hundred people gathered before dawn on Friday morning as part of an event organized to show support for Bay Village Coffee owners Alan Forbes and Gary Mack after the couple received an anonymous homophobic letter. Photo: Matt Vis/CBC Thunder Bay

By Matt Vis · CBC News Thunder Bay · March 4, 2022 

A homophobic letter sent to the owners of a Thunder Bay, Ont. coffee shop turned into a sunrise of love and support.

Over 100 people gathered before dawn Friday outside Bay Village Coffee, rallying around the business owners, after the anonymous letter arrived this week. The letter came after a rock was thrown through a window of the shop a few weeks ago. The writer of the letter attributed the vandalism to the owners' homosexuality.

Gary Mack, who owns Bay Village Coffee with his husband Alan Forbes, said the response from the community has been overwhelming.

It's been an emotional few days, he said, adding it's mainly because of that community support rather than the contents of the letter.

"That a gay couple with a business in Thunder Bay could be celebrated and supported like this, it's a real indication that things have really changed in Thunder Bay," Mack said, adding he was at a loss for words by how many people showed up for the sunrise gathering. 

"But that letter is also an indication that homophobia is still alive and well in Thunder Bay and that we're not going to stand for it any more." 

Forbes, left, and Mack spoke to the group that gathered outside the coffee shop. Photo: Matt Vis/CBC • Thunder Bay

Forbes said they took some time deciding whether to publicly share the letter, which they posted on their Facebook page, but wanted to show that homophobia would not be tolerated.

That post has generated hundreds of reactions, comments and messages denouncing the letter and standing up for Mack and Forbes.

"At first it felt very personal so I didn't want to share it, but then I started to realize the kind of impact this letter could have on the bigger community," Forbes said. "We thought it was just really important to share and just to show that's not acceptable behaviour and this community doesn't stand for it."

Mack said he and Forbes recognize that they are seen by some as role models in the community, which is very meaningful.

"If we can make a difference, if we can make even one person feel better about themselves or know they can have a prosperous, happy, wonderful life, that's all we want to do," he said.

Andrea Boyd was one of those who came to show support. She said she expected the large turnout and planned to arrive early.

"It's upsetting when you hear about any act of violence at any group, and the guys at Bay Village Coffee have been such wonderful supports for our community. I think it's important the rest of the community supports them as well," she said.

"It really warmed our hearts coming down the street and seeing the crowd of people here and everybody so happy and supportive."

To see the original report and read related stories, follow this link to the CBC Thunder Bay website.

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