Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Helping The GLBT Community: An Interview With One Of My New Hero's Teri Yale

Happy Tuesday Blogger Friends and Readers, I hope you have pulled out the turkey to defrost in time for the big day. I have a lot on my mind, and have an unexpected day off work, so there will be a couple of posts today hopefully. I am rather proud of the fact that this blog and accompanying website can be read by not only our GLBT community, but also our str8 friends and family as well. It's when we all get over these imaginary boundries of sexual stereotypes and prejudices that we can really come together as a town, state, country or nation. I have mentioned to you a couple of times this past week about Davey's Basement, an indie record and vintage concert t-shirt shop in Mason, Michigan. Here is a little more in-depth into the story and an interview with the shop's owner, Teri Yale.

Some background....Teri grew up in San Francisco, California and was taught early on to look for goodness in people and not what they do behind closed doors in the privacy of their own lives. She has tried to instill these values into her three daughters, and the family, with husband and father Ken, try to live these values daily. This openness and warmth, must also spring from the fact that Teri's brother-in-law, and her own middle daughter are gay.

Davey's Basement
, came from the name of the lead singer of the punk band AFI, Davey Havok, and the basement from "That '70s Show". The stores inventory consisted mostly of records, cd's, vintage and concert t's and some various other merchandise. She has also stocked a small selection of rainbow stickers and Pride merchandise without incident. Teri expected maybe a small amount of controversy, not from the Pride merchandise, but because she set the shop up to replicate the classic head shop setting from her youth - ("Other than the fact that we don't have the drug paraphernalia, this is what I grew up with in San Francisco," she says.)

The story here (click here to see the original story,) is that a little while back, Davey's Basement ended up sponsoring the Gay/Straight Student Alliance's float in the Mason High School homecoming parade. An Alliance her straight daughter helped co-found a few years back. Since the parade, the store has been in essence, boycotted by the community. Sales have dropped dramatically, and all for the support of kids who want other kids to have a safe place at school to talk about their feelings and their friends and not feel the prejudice of the outside world. We in the GLBT community MUST support those that support us, and I hope you will all take some time to show your support for this great family and this great cause. Send support through words of encouragement, and hopefully by buying some product from her store. The holidays are here, and this could be a great place to do some of your holiday shopping. I talked to Teri Yale on the phone the other day, a very sweet woman and she was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about all of this. Please read my interview with Teri........

How long have you lived/worked in Mason, Michigan, and who all is in your immediate family?

>>>we (as a family) have been in Mason since 2001, but my husband had lived here for since 1996. Our family consists of 3 daughters, Nikki, Briana and Becky, my husband Ken and myself.....oh yeah, and Little Miss Crazy (our cat)

When did the idea of the record store/t-shirt shop originate, and how long have you been in business?

>>>I was getting pretty sick of being a Banker and REALLY needed a career change. In our house we all have such a passion for music.....it's very diverse.....but my girls were raised on more music than TV. My daughter Becky and I came up with the idea one weekend in June of 2005. We opened our store in Oct of 2005

Have you always sold GLBT friendly merchandise?

>>>>Oh yes....I thought it was very essential to have merch for EVERYONE.....our store is tiny, so we can only stock a little bit of everything. In recent weeks, I have had to increase the "Pride" line of stickers and buttons.

What motivated your daughter to start the GSA on the Mason High School Campus? When?

>>>>My oldest Daughter, NIkki, got involved in Sept 2001. She didn't start it per say.....but more as a co-founder. A friend of her's was openly gay and was being harrassed and he wanted to start this. She joined him and others followed. It started with approx. 50 kids and then as the yr progressed, many dropped out. Interest has come and gone over the yrs. AT one point a few yrs ago, a school offical (and I do not recall who) asked they changed the name from th GSA to the Diversity club. Altho they said it was to increase enrollement, I really don't think that was it. I think some people didn't like the fact that the High School had a GSA.

What was the make-up of the alliance when your daughter started it, and where is it at now?

>>>> At that time, it was mostly straight girls, who were very supportive. Also many kids were Seniors so when they graduated, that left a huge hole the next yr. This yr, from what I have been told, there is one openly gay male and some still trying to figure things out. The bulk of the group are incoming freshman and straight girls. Most of the kids are regular customers of mine. Last I checked there was about 25 kids in the group.

How did your store come to sponsor the Homecoming Float that has started the uproar?

>>>>The kids came to me and asked if we could donate money so they could have a float in the parade, but in talking with them, what they really needed was a trailer. My husband took the day off work, and drove our Company Van and trailer to the school so they could decorate it. He also drove it in the Parade while I stayed at the store to operate it. I honestly didn't think it was even an issue.....anytime kids asked for help, if I could, I help them. We have donated to groups from the 4-H, Little League, the Christian Youth groups....I mean, the list is endless. I have never said no yet. Just 2 days ago, I donated gift certificates to the local Youth Hockey and the 1986 Mason HIgh School Class Reunion

How did the controversy come about? How did it affect Business? What has been said or done to your family and or the business?

>>>It started with rumors I heard from a couple kids in the Middle school....and then other started asking if it was true what they were hearing at school. One girl who came in everyday said her friend wasn't allowed in my store anymore cuz we were a faggot store. She said her friend said that she was going to be grounded if she came back in. She did sneak in once after that.....but I told her I didn't want her to get in trouble so both girls left.
Basically our local customers stopped coming in. Our sales dropped 86%. We didn't even make expenses. I had placed several large orders for X-mas, and they couldn't be stopped by the time I realized what was going on. I had to take personal funds to make expenses. Most everything that has been said and done has been very subtle. We did have one man come in the next day after the parade and ask what the GSA stood for. WHen I told him.....he said that he doesn't shop at Target since the support "the gays". He didn't return to our store for almost a month. He used to come in on a daily basis. I really don't miss him. Everyone kept saying that it must havebeen the economy....but when I'd look out the window and see many people walking the streets, going into the other business on my block, and they'd pass me up, I knew something was wrong. Our store is across the street from a restaraunt that is a huge favorite with the towns people. We'd see tons of peole not only park next door to our store but park right in front of our store, glance over and walk away......we track the customers who come in. The week following the Parade, we had 2 days when the doors didn't even open. I kept going outside to make sure my lights were on.

When did your story first break to the GLBT press?

>>>>I am not too sure to be honest.........it was about 2 weeks ago I think.

What has the reaction been so far?

>>>>I have been amazed at the out pouring of support from all over the world.
On our home front, we have had many people stop in and help us out by shopping and spreading the word. MIchigan Pride have been awesome....Doug, John and Dan came to see us after they heard what was going on and helped us a great deal with contacts and just spreading the word.

What would you like to say to your GLBT Fans that think what you did was heroic and are very proud of you and your family?

>>>>I am far from being a hero. The heroic one is a kid I know who at 15, has come out, is proud of who he is, takes such crap from so many in this town yet manages to keep his head up and is just the most adorable boy I know. He is so kind hearted, a great student and I would be so proud to have him as my child.

How can we continue to support Davey's Basement?

>>>>As long as we stay in business....they don't win. Keep in touch with us....join our mailing list so we can let everyone know what's going on. Hopefully we can stay in business and continue our store and not let ignorant people rule the town. They would love nothing more than to see us fail and leave town. But my goal is to stick around for these kids, move into a bigger building and have a safe place where they can hang out after school......hold a meeting if they need or have a band play for some entertainment. So if anyone knows a "rich" person who is dying to spend some money (because there is a building for sale around the corner from our store)....send them my way!!!! *hehe*

Any other comments you want to share??

>>>>So many non-local people have asked when we will have Merch on our web site, because they want to help us by buying stuff. We are working extra to put it up there.....it's slow going since my husband does it all after he gets off work. I have an awesome Webguy who tries very hard not to charge us much and allows my husband to help out when he can to keep costs down. We are hoping to have more items added by this weekend.....so people need to check back. I also will be sending out email to our mailing lists to let everyone know of new merch.

On another note, I want you to pass along a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE who emailed, us, who bought something, or who called. I never relaized how powerful Blogs were, nor did I know too much about them. I have net some incredible people in the last 2 weeks. Such a humbling experience.

I want to thank Teri Yale for taking the time in all of this to talk with me. I am sure it is stressful enough trying to be a business owner, raise 3 children, be a good wife, and get ready for the holidays, without the added stress this has all brought with it. Teri and her husband, along with their helpful web guy, are trying to get merchandise up on the website, so be patient and I recommend buying a gift certificate or just calling and seeing what they recommend for a fun gift for someone or yourself. Let's show the Yale family that our community is strong and we support each other. To add insult to injury, the website was even hacked into recently but is now secured. You can also visit them at their MySpace page and ask them to be a friend and send them comments of support. My best wishes and support go out to the Yale family, and I will be calling soon to try to find a Journey t-shirt, Yes I am just that old and unhip, LOL............More to come laterz blogger friends.


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