SPRING LAKE, Mich. — At the Front Porch ice cream shop in Spring Lake, customers must wear masks when inside the store.
That's not the owner's rule, but rather an order by the governor and the Ottawa County Health Department.
Every now and then, owner Kelly Larson said some customers do not like that rule. They will argue with employees about wearing a mask in the shop. The majority of the workers are teenagers.
"If you have a beef with the policy, it’s not the 17-year-old kid that can help you," said Larson, "Talk to your elected official, have a peaceful protest or something. But certainly, please don’t yell at the children who are trying to make you happy."
Saturday night, a group came in toward the end of the day that were particularly angry about the mask policy. Larson said they started to yell at the workers and became unruly. The workers then called police to escort the group out off the premises. The group eventually left.
"It’s really hard," said Larson, "We had crying, we had tears. They feel bad. The mama bear comes out in me. This is not a lesson you want any child to learn."
Larson then wrote a post on the Front Porch Facebook page about mask wearing, incidents that night, and said "we don't like masks either."
Then, Sunday morning, a different customer came into the store.
"When she first came in," said the 17-year-old employee working both Saturday and Sunday who did not want to be named, "I was like, why is she carrying two bouquets of flowers?"
The female customer came in not for ice cream, but with a gesture of sympathy and gratitude for the teenage workers.
"I asked her what would you like," said the worker. "And she said, 'Well, I came in here to give you these flowers for you and your employees because I read your post and it made me feel bad.' And she said, 'I love you girls. I come in here all the time and you guys are always the sweetest people.'"
The worker said she did not get the woman's name, but the incident "made her heart happy." The worker wants to thank the woman, and let her know how much her gesture meant to the team after such a rough night.
"It’s overwhelming," said Larson, "It gives me goosebumps."
Larson also said there have been a few other kind gestures from the community similar to this woman's flowers. A local pizza shop offered to drop off pizza later in the week for employees, and people are calling with supportive words from all over the country after seeing the Facebook post.
"Thank you for caring about us and keeping us in business," said Larson, "We really care about your love and support."
In the Facebook post, Larson writes she "wants to see the other side of this pandemic. I'd like to stay healthy, see my team stay healthy, and see my community stay healthy." She also said this was an odd, challenging year, and she wants to see locally-owned businesses in the area survive.
"Wearing a mask is not a political statement in our store. It's what we have to do to survive today," Larson wrote in the post.
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