What does the image above have to do with spices?  If you are a fan of Penzey’s Spices of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you would know that their public persona is as much about their politics as it is about their products.  Those who sign up for their newsletter, Voices of Cooking, receive recipes, tips, and “reminders that you are not alone in caring about others. To see cooking as kindness is to see the world as a very good and very inspiring place to be.”

A New Yorker article about founder Bill Penzey states “Almost from the start, he used the brand’s official communiques as a megaphone, devoting the first and last pages of his catalog to personal notes and op-eds. Over the years, Penzey expressed his dismay at, among other things, urban white flight, low teacher pay, and the use of Native American iconography in sports. With the advent of social media, he expanded his platform to include the e-mail newsletter and a company Facebook page. And with the election of Trump, he found an issue that nearly everyone took personally.”

Most companies avoid making strong political statements in order to avoid turning off potential customers, and Penzey’s has of course lost customers who want their spices without a dash of political opinion. But they have also gained customers who like their point of view – how many of us can boast a Facebook following of over 620,000?

The New Yorker article goes on to mention that many of today’s consumers feel a stronger allegiance to companies that take a position on major political issues.  This of course would not be limited to supporting a particular political party – it’s important to take a stand against pollution and energy waste, for example, and to share information about whatever non-profits you decide to support.

Our shop has struggled with whether to carry magnets, stickers, books and other gift items that take a political stand.  We decided to draw the line at items that mock a particular point of view, even though we suspect that many of our customer might find these items amusing.  Instead we try to keep it positive – we love the many positive women’s rights images for girls, and can hardly keep Ruth Bader Ginsberg figures in stock. 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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