One less refuge for rich white lake aristocracy, according to some

Front page of birchwoodcafe.com. Foreground: Announcement about reopening on July 9th. Background: Picture of a sign displaying "Black Lives Matter"
Something doesn't quite track...

This time it is the Birchwood Cafe‘s turn on the spotlight of infamy:

Long a darling of vegetarian and vegan foodies in the Twin Cities, it is now under the microscope as the owner summarily fired the entire staff including the GM on June 21st:

Instagram comment by @royale_withcheese

Myself the last time I ate there was years ago. I met a few people who worked there over the years but I personally had no idea of what management and ownership was like, other than I was never hired despite applying for kitchen positions multiple times.

The gist of it:

  • Tracy Singleton fired almost all the staff after setting up for Juneteenth.
  • Then she proceeded to post about it on Facebook and Instagram in a way that everyone says misrepresents her actions.
  • She declared this as a “prairie burn”; a chance to clean house.
  • When negative comments started coming in, she deleted them.
  • Then she deleted the original posts themselves.
  • She created new posts with comments disabled and people blocked.

There are a few screenshots going around but somehow no one thought (or refused) to take screenshots of those original posts so we will have to do without them. The fact this happened over two weeks ago means local food media is actively ignoring the story since most reporters probably want to stay in the good graces of the ownership.

Just the fact she used the term “prairie burn” as most of the western United States is under extreme drought, record high temperatures, and already started what will be a horrifying wildfire season… someone didn’t bother to read the room.

I found out about it via Twitter when someone retweeted @OhDionne onto my timeline, bringing up posts from Instagram and Facebook where the owner immediately set about deleting all comments from employees and those who would support them, so everyone will have to settle for screenshots of those posts.

However, activity elsewhere is still happening:

Former employee of Birchwood here and one of the many who were fired last week. It looks like you’ve read through the comments and have the gist of it. We were fired because the owner was paranoid that we were actively working against her and that we didn’t like her (which we don’t). The Juneteenth block party was just a convenient excuse for the public despite our questions on the logistics being legitimate. She truly believes she is a white savior while still making racist comments and tokenizing her POC employees. She’s received over a million dollars in PPP money and restaurant relief funds just to fire everyone.

As you’ve probably gathered from the comments, the owner is going through a mental health crisis combined with a drinking problem, but that’s no excuse for how she’s treated us this week and this year. I sincerely doubt the restaurant will reopen this summer if ever based on what we’re seeing here and her lack of staff. I’m happy to elaborate more on anything!

Update: the owner has deleted the Instagram and Facebook posts and reposted a similar message without our comments.

plantsaspets on Reddit

Not sure if it’s still there, but it was fun watching the owner and ex-employees go back and forth on the Birchwood facebook page. As a complete bystander, it looked like the owner came unhinged.

Michelle Zajec on Service Industry MSP

Still plenty of activity on Twitter itself based on the results of a quick search.

It makes me happy to see the support being shown by the rest of the community for the people who now find themselves unemployed! A lot of these people are deserving of a better workplace under better employers.

As for the Cafe and its owners we’ll probably hear about them in a few months when local food media breathlessly writes about the reopening of the place with a new-to-town chef and all-new staff.

Hopefully this time they will actually season their food.

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