CAPE MAY — A local ice cream shop that had its Pride Month decorations stolen and vandalized last month is focusing on the sweeter side of things.
The owners of Fine Fellows Creamery on Bay Avenue, Dustin Piccolo, 37, and his husband David Kinsey, 42, spoke out on social media last week about the vandalism and said they were overwhelmed by the public support. A local LGBTQ activist group has called on those responsible for the vandalism to be prosecuted.
The couple, in their fifth year of business, decided to fly a rainbow flag this year and place smaller flags outside in their window baskets. They said people started stealing the flags out front during the evening.
One evening, while their cafe was filled with customers and staff, a group of young men drove by and screamed gay slurs, Piccolo said.
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“This is nothing new for us. We always stand up and dust ourselves off and persevere,” the owners wrote in their post on the shop’s Facebook page June 27. “We only know how to maintain forward motion. No time for whining.”
Piccolo said the pair have filed police reports. Now, they said they are focusing on the positive.
“At the end of the day, a few small negative things have really amounted to a lot of really wonderful support from the community and our customers,” Piccolo said.
Craig van Baall, president of GABLES, an LGBTQ group in the city that promotes tourism, said what happened at Fine Fellows Creamery is a crime that needs to be prosecuted.
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“It needs to have input from Cape May City Police Department, maybe better patrols,” Van Ball said. “Cape May is not a homophobic town. It’s a very welcoming city, and there are many other businesses that have rainbow stickers on their windows and some of the houses fly the rainbow flag.”
Detectives from the city Police Department and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office stopped by the ice cream shop Tuesday, police Chief Anthony Marino said. The state Attorney General’s Office also has been informed because it oversees bias investigations, and this is a suspected bias incident, Marino said.
“We take these things very seriously. Cape May is a destination for all types of people. We certainly don’t want anyone to have anything happen whether they are locals or visitors down here, so we will be investigating as fully as we can,” Marino said.
Since the incidents, people have anonymously sent the shop gay pride flags, stickers and window decals and have made art the owners have put on display.
“The sheer volume of love and support was amazing. Outpouring of kindness and acceptance from total strangers has filled our hearts with joy,” they wrote in the post.
At the beginning of the month, the couple partnered with another local business to host a benefit to raise money for LGBTQ youth groups at high schools in Cape May County.
The couple thinks they might try to continue these kinds of donations on a monthly basis.
Originally traveling down on weekends from Philadelphia, the two moved to the area and opened the ice cream shop five years ago.
“Now, I just get to give people sweet treats and make them happy,” Piccolo said.
Rich Helfant, president of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, said he has not heard of any major homophobic incidents during Pride Month last month in the city. The executive director and CEO of Lucy the Elephant in Margate, said the rainbow flag has flown at Lucy since June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided all states must recognize gay marriage.
“We get countless people who during the course of the year come into the gift shop and thank us for flying the flag. They go out of their way to come in and thank us. It’s a nice feeling to know that they are welcome here,” Helfant said. “Everybody is welcome here.”