A doughnut shop owner has apologized for the way he announced the closing of his location in Columbia, Mo. this week after people found it too snarky for their taste.
Strange Donuts owner Jason Bockman posted the news on Facebook and Instagram Wednesday along with a photo of Melissa Click.
The University of Missouri fired the controversial Click, an assistant communications professor, after she called for “some muscle” to remove a student journalist from a protest on the Columbia campus in November 2015.
“Love you Columbia but we gotta keep it moving,” Bockman wrote. “Effective immediately we are closing the como loco. It’s been a lot of fun but there has been a correlation between the student population decline and our sales.
“We are planning some huge things for Strange and need the energy elsewhere. @seoultacto will remain open and we’re still lovers.”
Bockman said later he was trying to be funny, noting how humor is a key to his brand that encourages customers to “stay strange,” but many people didn’t laugh.
“I am appalled by this business’s decision to base their own failure to appeal to the Columbia community ... on student protests against a racist and apathetic university administration,” one woman wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “Tasteless, classless, and just all around pathetic.”
“It's so awkward you'd try and correlate student protest/activism and marginalized students feeling threatened/unsafe with low sales,” wrote another Facebook commenter. “How tone deaf.”
Angry folks posted one-star reviews on the Strange Donuts Facebook page and called for doughnut fans to swarm Harold’s Doughnuts, one of the other two doughnut shops in downtown Columbia, for a “Strange Donuts Is Over Party.”
“Let’s all go get Harold’s tomorrow to celebrate Strange Donut's PR nightmare/going out of business in CoMo and subsequently blaming Mizzou's lower enrollment lol,” the invite read, adding that Harold’s had no hand in the event.
According to the Columbia Missourian, Bockman deleted his announcement several hours later. He posted an apology to Facebook on Thursday.
“I’m truly sorry for the post I made yesterday,” he wrote. “It was never my intention to be inflammatory or offensive.
“I try to live a life of inclusion and service to my community. The announcement was a poor representation of me and our brand. I was wrong. I want to thank everyone in Columbia for their support. I wish we could have made it work.”
Bockman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he is “ashamed” of the post. He meant to poke fun at the fact that the store failed, not the school’s declining enrollment following the protests that rocked the campus in 2015.
Enrollment on the Columbia campus for the 2016-2017 academic year dropped to 33,266, down 2,182 from last year, a 6.2 percent drop, school officials announced last fall. That’s the lowest enrollment since 2010.
Officials blamed the drop in part on a shrinking pool of potential students and to a lesser degree the racially charged protests over a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion of minority students.
“I never delete posts, but I did this time because it was clearly offending so many people, and that upset me,” Bockman told the Missourian. “I mean, I really try to live my life of inclusion and service to my community, and it was really upsetting that it offended so many people.
“Even my friends were like, ‘Hey, what was this about?’ I messed up, man. I really missed what I was going for with that.”
He didn’t offend everyone, though.
“No apology needed in my opinion,” wrote one man on Facebook. “If people can't take a joke oh well, you guys are a great donut shop, donuts and jokes go together, lighten up people, strange donuts are not running for a government office, no need to be politically correct and to try to appease all of the time.”
Wrote another man: “Were you down-rated on review sites because some people took offense? Talk about childish. Disliking your post is one thing, but deliberately attempting to discredit your business through false reviews on social media is one thing that this ‘old man’ cannot understand about Millenials. Have some tact, grow up, and quit looking for new ways to be offended.”
Bockman said the Columbia location had performed poorly for about a year and a half. It opened in March 2015, a few months before the protests began.
He told the Post-Dispatch the company’s successful locations in Maplewood and Kirkwood could no longer support the college-town shop, partly because he underestimated the drop in sales when students left for the summer.
“It was our most expensive space to operate,” he said. “When sales would dip, it would be dramatic.”
St. Louis-based Seoul Taco, which shared the space in Columbia with Strange Donuts, will remain open.