After White Nationalist Moves Upstairs, Virginia Chocolatiers Get Unexpected Support
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we have a political story with a slightly different flavor. As members of the Trump administration began moving into the D.C. area, so did some people hoping to have a voice in the administration. One of those people is Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute. That's a think tank that promotes white supremacy, a member of the so-called alt-right. Spencer and his group rented an office on King Street, a popular shopping area in Alexandria, Va. Protesters have found the office, which is posing some unique challenges for one business on the block, but not in the way you might expect.
KIM GUSTAFSON: Love lives here. A note to us.
MARTIN: Kim Gustafson and her husband Bruce own Bluprint Chocolatiers.
K. GUSTAFSON: We have some cute little T-shirts - white fish, blue fish, red fish, all fish. I love that one.
MARTIN: Since word got out about Gustafsons' upstairs neighbor, messages of support started coming into Bluprint Chocolatiers from as far away as Whitefish, Mont. Most recently, this care package came, a box covered in sharpie hearts.
K. GUSTAFSON: It strikes you. It - you know, this box from people we don't know saying, we want to help. We're there for you.
CHERILYN DEVRIES: Yeah, it's good to hear about people sticking together, huh (laughter)?
MARTIN: Cherilyn DeVries is with Love Lives Here. That's an organization in Montana founded in response to white supremacist groups in the Flathead Valley.
DEVRIES: We just wanted to say, hey, we see you, we understand and we're so sorry.
MARTIN: They understand because Richard Spencer used to live in Whitefish, Mont., a town that has gone head to head with white supremacist groups.
DEVRIES: So we understand what it's like completely out of the blue to be associated with an idea that stands in complete and absolute contrast to our values. And we also know what it's like to receive generosity and love from complete strangers. And when we got the news that this was happening to Bluprint chocolates, we wanted to extend that.
MARTIN: When the Gustafsons found out about their new neighbor by way of a misdelivered UPS package, they worried that they would be associated with his ideas by proximity. And they worried that protesters outside of their building would deter customers from their shop. But Kim says the response from protesters so far has surprised her.
K. GUSTAFSON: The protesters have been fabulous to our business. They'll come in and buy chocolates. They'll let us know how they're supporting us. They spread the word.
MARTIN: Still, her husband Bruce says he's sad that the focus is on politics and not the beautiful little handcrafted chocolates in the display case.
BRUCE GUSTAFSON: It's where we live rather than what we do. And I do - I hope that coming out of this people will try our chocolates and then, you know, they'll realize that these are something special.
MARTIN: After my own thorough investigative report, my conclusion is yum. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.