Baby store owner harassed over ‘lesbian’ discounts

Baby store owner harassed over ‘lesbian’ discounts
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A baby store owner in Park Slope is getting blasted with threats from callers enraged by a special discount she offers lesbian moms in the gay-, kid-, discount- and mom-and-pop–friendly neighborhood.

Karen Paperno, owner of Boing Boing maternity boutique on Sixth Avenue, announced a 10-percent discount for gay mamas — prompting at first criticism and then straight-up harassment after posting the discount a month ago.

In a one-week period, Paperno says she’s fielded five crazed callers — mostly homophobes from out of state — who have spewed hate speech and even threatened to hurt her.

“It’s really scary,” said Paperno, who runs the shop at Union Street. “I’m living in fear; I feel so violated.”

Paperno, who is married to a man, said she offered the discount to lesbian moms as a celebration of feminism and diversity.

“I like to help people,” she said, adding, “Women make less money than men.”

The 15-year-old shop offers virtually everything the new mother needs, including organic cotton nursing pads, breast pumps, slings and baby shoes.

Paperno’s sign reading “10 percent discount for lesbians” is on a brick wall behind the register. Since announcing the discount, she’s accepted the word of lesbians who claim the discount. Non-lesbians moms — yes, there are a few still out there — haven’t had a problem with the discounts for their sapphic sisters, Paperno said.

“People come in and laugh and love it,” she said.

The sign didn’t cause much trouble — aside from an occasional pout from a gay father — until last week, when Brokelyn.com reported on the bargain. The post prompted impassioned critics to complain about everything from sexism to the sanctity of marriage.

“This is blatantly discriminatory,” wrote Richard Sol, one commenter on the blog. “I wish godspeed to whomever sues these sexists.”

It got worse when several scary men — some of whom accused Paperno of trying to get rich in the name of sin — began to phone Boing Boing.

One called her, “a fat bull dyke who needs to get f—ed.”

Now, she says she’s scared to be alone at the shop at night.

Offensive or not, Paperno has nothing to worry about — at least legally.

“If she wants to offer a discount to a group she thinks is underprivileged, she’s entitled to,” said discrimination lawyer Murray Schwartz, adding that customers don’t have the same rights as employees. “Retailers can basically do whatever they want.”

Paperno says she’ll do just that: She has no plans to take the sign down.