The Buttery Shelf restaurant in West Lafayette, IN has, for a long time, generously provided free meals on Thursday to a packed and grateful house of many patrons unsure when or where their next meals will come from. Unfortunately, some neighboring businesses do not share the kind heart of owner Cherrie Buckley.
Buckley has been enthusiastically helping the poor since 1995 when she started Seeds of Hope Community Pantry and Clothes closet, which evolved into Seeds of Hope Community Ministries, a nondenominational organization aimed at helping the mentally ill and homeless. Sadly, her efforts have been curtailed by the constant harassment of some of her less magnanimous neighbors — at least in the form of Buttery Shelf Eatery’s “Donation Thursday.”
Neighboring business owners like Jerry Kalal of K. Dees Coffee and Roasting Company feel that the presence of the wretched underclass is damaging to their bottom line. Kalal has gone so far as to claim that he loses $500-800 per week because the crowd that frequents the Buttery Shelf scares away customers.
“I said ‘You do this little soup kitchen, but you’re closing down all the other businesses,'” Kalal remarked on his conversation with the Buttery Shelf’s philanthropic proprietor.
He explained that when someone’s generosity causes him or other businesses to in any way feel inconvenienced, he “goes off.” Kalal chaims that “you’d have 50 or 60 people standing outside the Buttery Shelf, spitting, swearing, open alcohol use, clogging the sidewalks.” Kalal hated the Buttery Shelf’s efforts to assist the poor so much that he offered to buy the building just to shut her down.
The owner of K. Dees, who led the charge against poor people, regularly contacted police with spurious claims against the restaurant. He says that Buttery Shelf’s generosity has led to an increase in fights and littering in the streets. Police were repeatedly called with complaints about the eatery’s patrons, but each time officers responded to nothing more awful than patrons blocking traffic because of the long lines for food — a testament to the need for a program such as the one Buckley has instituted.
Some other neighboring businesses have joined Kalal in his crusade against assisting the needy. Makenzie Kus, owner of Something Blue Bakery, says that the “cursing” and “fights” made her uneasy, though no proof seems to have been offered that things were as she claimed. She purports that many witnessed “one guy just cold-cock another guy right in the face.” She estimates that, oddly echoing Jerry Kalal’s numbers, that he loses $500-800 a week because the Buttery Shelf chooses to help the homeless.
In one instance, police Captain Chris Downard of the Lafayette Police Department said that they were told by a caller that patrons were doing drugs behind the restaurant. Little did the caller know that they already had an officer watching–the people were simply waiting for Buttery Shelf to open. “It was an unfounded call,” he said.
Some, however, consider the claims by Kalal and his ilk to be dubious. David Kurtz, owner of American Treasures referred to Kalal’s treatment of Buckley as “bullying.” He said that “It just seemed like there was extra police presence during the time when Cherrie was serving, and extra scrutiny, and often the guy from the coffee shop, I saw him in the middle of it, standing with the police, directing the police.” The proprietor of Main Street Cheese and Wine said that it was a case of one business owner going too far. “They used to have a whole crowd waiting and, yeah, sometimes it gets noisy, but that’s no reason to call the cops and try to shut a business down,” said Ivan Brumbaugh.
Captain Downard explained that the increased police presence was because they had received three anonymous calls and one call directly from K. Dee’s Coffee’s business line complaining about the Buttery Shelf’s patrons. Two calls have been initiated by police, but that was simply due to the number of people waiting to get inside. “No one’s been arrested. They’ve never even done a police report,” Downard said.
Buckley, after extended harassment by her neighbors that extended even to her trash cans being maliciously removed, made the difficult decision to end “Donation Thursday” and revert to a normal business day. She told Journal and Courier that she shut the program down due to the backlash she suffered from local business owners for her munificence. She agreed to an interview with J+C, but later canceled, saying she was too exhausted to discuss the situation.