Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Debating Pixie Donut Shop

I try not to get involved in commenting on letters to the editor submitted by COURIER readers. But one recent letter attacks an article I wrote for being "sensational," "twisted" and "over-the-top awful" so I felt compelled to respond.

Here it is as printed in today's issue of the COURIER.

Dear Editor:
Your article on Saturday, January 23, was over-the-top awful. How dare you call out an established business in our town on an alleged and, in my mind, meaningless allegation.
You questioned whether or not the business could retain its customers. Well, I, for one, will not only keep going to Pixie but because of your sensationalism in your article, I might just throw a little more in the tip jar.
For the last 11 years, my morning starts the same way as it does for so many in our neighborhood. No, it is not with a stop at a place with a “barista” with a javelin through her nose. It is not to a place where the youth sit with their laptops and work away on their social networking sites. It is not at a place where you can order coffee a thousand different ways.
It is at a place where you are greeted by June the same way each day. It is at a place where June and her husband start each day at 3:30 a.m. The start of their normal 13-14 hour day (364 days per year). It is a place where June knows everyone’s favorite drink. Not many drinks to pick from you see, and that is great. They have coffee, hot chocolate, orange juice, soda and milk.
I remember the time June apologized for having to raise the price on coffee. They raised the price on a large coffee from $1 to $1.20. Still a far cry from the $4 triple grand latte with no whip made with sub soy milk and one raw sugar. Oh, yeah, leave room. Pixie does not have scones, reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake or their own labeled water, saving children in some far away third world country.
Pixie does have the best donuts and muffins you will find in our community. They have a simple brown bulletin board that they will let you post any event that supports the local community. They have been a constant supporter of local schools, youth sports and youth groups. June and her husband have been part of our kids lives watching them grow up. My kids started by staring through the glass cases at the glazes and frosting. Now they get to enjoy looking over the cases and seeing June’s warm smile as she wishes them luck whether they are going to sports, a dance or school.
Pixie is poetry in motion every morning as June and her staff know the orders of most and work in harmony to move the masses through their small, simple donut shop. They are a Claremont family with their kids going through Claremont schools. They support us and I know I will continue to support them despite the twisted article written about something that took place in 2006. You should have stuck to reporting on “Storm Watch Twenty Ten!”
As I read your description of the all-powerful Department of Fish and game and their aid on Pixie in 2006, all I could picture was the TSA finding a shampoo bottle. Whew, I feel so protected by these almighty governmental agencies.
Pixie, you are an example of what this country is about and is getting away from. You are hard-working, simple people with great values. You deliver a great product at a fair price with great customer service.
Thanks for being a fixture in the community and see you tomorrow at 4:45 a.m.
Your loyal customer,
Hal Hargrave

The letter was in reference to the federal indictment announced last week against the owner of Pixie Donut Shop, Moun Chau, who authorities believe was involved in an ivory smuggling operation. The ivory came from African elephants, classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. You can read more about African elephant poaching and the ivory trade here.

Hargrave's letter doesn't touch on the charges that Chau's activities violated a federal law, the Endangered Species Act, and an international treaty signed by the United States. Or that he is facing up to 25 years in federal prison for his alleged crimes. Or that evidence points to the fact that Chau had an ivory carving studio in the back of his doughnut shop.

Instead, Hargrave criticizes everything from coffee shop employees with nose piercings to Ethos Water for "saving children in some far away third world country." By the way, Ethos, founded by CMC grad Peter Thum, has to date raised over $6 million toward a grant for humanitarian water programs.

Hargrave clearly likes the blue collar setting at Pixies while thumbing his nose at the foo foo coffee shop atmosphere at places like Starbucks. In fact, he applauds Pixie owners for being a family-run business that is friendly and offers good products at reasonable prices.

I am not doubting that Pixies has good doughnuts or the owners are friendly to their customers. But the fact remains that federal agents found dozens of pieces of ivory in the business as well as tools to carve them into decorative products, likely to be sold on to collectors.

I personally find ivory smuggling a reprehensible activity. I applaud federal laws and international treaties banning it and punishing those who commit it for personal gain. Whether a poacher, trader or ivory carver, all are links in a chain that decimated elephant populations before laws like the Endangered Species Act were created.

In a community like Claremont so concerned with sustainability of the natural environment, I'm quite sure I'm not the only one who is disturbed by a business owner allegedly smuggling ivory from overseas and carving it in the back of his shop. Apparently, Hargrave isn't bothered by this, calling the indictment against Chau a "meaningless allegation."

Yes, in the article I questioned whether the business will suffer because the owner is an accused ivory smuggler. I think it's a legitimate question. I know some people who won't go there anymore. But apparently there are people out there, like Hargrave, standing strongly behind the business.

I, for one, plan to get my doughnuts from Yum Yum from now on.

1 comment:

  1. Why does Mr. Hargrave show so much disdain towards Starbucks? I may not buy coffee there, but many people I know enjoy it. Perhaps it is American Corporations he hates? I must conclude that he is probably a Hippie Radical.