It all started with a sticker. About four years ago, baker Haley Popp stuck a sticker on the front of her shop stating that she and her team are affirming LGBTQ rights.
Or, as Popp puts it, “We’ll bake cakes to fuck anyone.”
Many residents of Flower Mound, a suburb of about 80,000 northwest of Dallas where Popp’s Hive Bakery is based, weren’t happy. According to the baker, it was around this time that her neighbors (many of whom used a Facebook group called “Flower Mound Cares”) started calling her, among other things, “damn trash”, “damn bitch or “fucking bitch”. Damn.” The harassment wasn’t limited to the internet either.
Popp, whose bright red hair is instantly recognizable, appeared on Food Network‘s Halloween Wars and become, as its staff puts it, “Flower Mound famous”. That’s not always a good thing.
“I had someone call me a bitch to my face at Target,” she says. “Some members of this town have contempt for me and the things I stand for.”
In other words, the sticker incident sparked a trend: Popp talks about equality, rights and movements like Black Lives Matter, and hordes of conservative trolls emerge with profane messages, abusive phone calls and emails pledging to end his career. The trend has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When COVID hit and we were enforcing masks in the store, people would come in here and yell stuff like, ‘It’s my fucking right; I don’t have to wear that shit in your store,” Popp says.
Then, in early May, the harassment took on another hue.
Following a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that signals the court will strike down abortion rights, Popp took to Hive Bakery’s social media accounts to post a photo of a cake with the words “My body, my choice” engraved in the icing. The backlash was swift, with many commentators calling Popp a “murderer” and one person writing, in part, that they “will make it a point to take on as many customers as possible”.
“Fuck you for supporting the killing of innocent babies who can’t fight back,” the commenter continued. “I hope you feel really important, bitch.”
Popp is used to this kind of response, but on the phone with the Observer about a week after the leak, she admitted that the harassment was particularly vile this time.
“I think what put it over the top this time is obviously abortion is a hot topic, and we live in a very Trumper electoral area, so they were emboldened to spew hate,” she says.
Eventually, Popp started capturing screenshots of the comments and posting them to social media — name and all. This led to a series of emails in which the harassers went through a combination of fury, legal threats and ultimately apologies and pleas for the message to be deleted.
Fortunately, the response was not entirely negative.
When Popp began to openly share her opinions, she held out hope that she would not be the only liberal voice.
“Whenever something important happens in the world, I want to talk about it, especially to people in my town,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘There must be more people like me here. I can’t be the only one.
She was right.
Last week, Hive devotees gathered around the bakery with words of encouragement and blockbuster sales. In fact, on the Saturday morning after the Supreme Court leak, the line of patrons lengthened out the door and into the parking lot. That afternoon, all the shelves were completely empty: the bakery was sold out hours before closing time.
On Tuesday, May 10, a full week after the leak, Popp said the store was still selling out every day. “I think we could have a cupcake and a brownie, and that’s it,” she said.
Popp savors this love which, thankfully, always shows up when the trolls arrive.
“We’ve always had customers who have supported us,” she says. “If you drop a dirty phrase online, there’s a swarm of people ready to support us. [The support] really proves to me that this city is not entirely conservative. There is a very large pocket of Liberals here in the Flower Mound area.
Hive Bakery occupies part of the suburb’s quaint Parker Square. Nestled between an executive store and a brunch spot, it’s probably not where you’d expect to find a haven of baked goods and “progressive” views like a belief in bodily autonomy. Popp is quick to point out that she is neither a Democrat nor a Republican; in his words, “Hive and I stand for all things that are equal in life.”
Even still, she can’t wait to show her bakery to a Democrat: Governor hopeful Beto O’Rourke.
“I have to do what’s best for my family and friends,” she says, and for her, that means campaigning for O’Rourke. By bringing the candidate to town, she hopes to further encourage local liberals and all disengaged parties to vote for candidates who support reproductive rights and equality in general.
“In the suburbs, I think there are a lot of people who don’t get actively involved in politics because they don’t think it affects them,” she said. “But they are wrong. Things like overthrowing Roe v. Wade will resonate for generations.