These vendors are in the business of love.
Dozens of merchants along Myrtle Avenue are pacifying the corridor by displaying signs that read “Hate Has No Business Here” in their shops’ windows as part of a campaign to unite Fort Greene–area businesses against intolerance that shopkeepers said arose in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as President.
“It seemed like someone popped open a bottle of hate after the election, and people felt the need to verbalize anything they thought,” said Kym Rodgers, owner of The Brooklyn Sweet Spot at 366 Myrtle Ave. between Adelphi Street and Clermont Avenue. “Peace needed a voice at that point, and people wondering if my shop wasn’t welcome to them because of how they look or speak needed to know that it is absolutely a safe space.”
Rodgers’s pastry shop is one of many establishments promoting the anti-hate campaign, which was organized by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership — a group that works with small businesses located on the street — and launched on July 4. The idea for it came from a neighborhood shopkeeper, who brought it to the partnership in February after the owner of another area store was the target of an online hate message.
“There were activists doing different things such as holding fund-raisers and hanging signs in their windows, but I felt we’d be stronger if we were on the same page,” said Amanda Neville, proprietor of wine shop Tipsy at 584 Myrtle Ave. between Emerson Place and Classon Avenue. “That way we’d be more united, and have more of an impact.”
Neville worked with a graphic designer to create the movement’s official image, a likeness of the American flag with a heart taking the place of the 50 stars, which is displayed next to translations of the motto in various languages on signs that hang in the windows of all participating businesses. The posters show members of the area’s diverse community that the owners of their favorite stores stand with them, she said.
“Many of our community members are minorities or immigrants, and some fall in both groups, so we wanted to show them these are safe spaces, and that we’re not just going to ignore intolerance,” Neville said. “We’re engaged, and we have decided to be proactive in a positive way.”
The activist and entrepreneur said other neighborhoods’ business improvement groups already have recognized the campaign and are working to bring it to their areas, and that she hopes the movement’s inclusive message will spread among merchants outside of New York City, too.