As tension mounts over a Corry bakery that began permitting customers to eat inside its dining room last week, the owner has made the decision to halt dine-in service.
Stephanie Smith, owner of Kneadful Things Bakery and Cafe, said she has decided to no longer offer dine-in service after the restaurant closes today at 4 p.m. She said the decision to stop allowing patrons to eat inside the cafe wasn't prompted by governing bodies.
"It has nothing to do with going up against the government, the health department or anything like that — I'm willing to fight that tooth and nail — but two of my employees have received threats," she said.
Smith said all of the measures that she has put in place to keep dine-in patrons safe from COVID-19 don't mean anything if her staff isn't safe.
The pair of employees allegedly received threats of physical bodily harm, and no one has acted on the threats as of now, according to Smith.
"When I started this, I expected resistance and anger toward me. I do not tolerate anyone going after my staff," she said. "This choice was mine to make and my staff should be left out of it."
Smith said one of the threats was made face to face and the other was on social media.
"People who have a problem with my dining room open should have a problem with me and not with my girls," she said. "Anyone who's been in my restaurant knows that my staff is primarily young girls and to go after a young girl is pretty cowardly."
The city of Corry Police Department has not received any reports regarding the alleged threats against staff members of Kneadful Things.
"It hasn't come that far yet," Smith said. "They didn't actually feel like they were unsafe at that moment, but I don't want it to escalate into anything."
Corry City Police Rich Shopene encourages anyone who is threatened to report it to local law enforcement officials and they will take the appropriate actions.
"If someone threatens violence against someone, they should let us know so we can have an incident on file," Shopene said. "If the threat is found credible, we can file any of the appropriate charges if we find out who's doing it."
Smith claims the threats were made by people who opposed the reopening of her dining room on May 11.
"The people who want businesses to remain closed and are touting this 'holier-than-thou safety first, we care about safety more than anything,' are the same people who are threatening physical violence to my employees," she said. "The people who want to move forward and are courageous enough to go out and start their lives again and go back to normal are showing nothing but support, love and prayer."
Smith said she is so thankful for all of the people who supported her and the bakery.
"It did not go unnoticed," she added.
Kneadful Things, located at 425 N. Center St., Corry, will go back to only offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery orders starting Tuesday.
Although Smith is closing her dining room, she plans to continue to challenge the state's government orders.
"I'm not giving up the fight on the government overreach. I'll just have to change tactics," she said. "I still support any business that feels like they need to open up. I will be their voice and their champion in any way I can. I just have to put the safety of my employees first."
The Corry Journal previously reported it had received reports about Corry residents, businesses owners and Corry City Council members meeting in front of Kneadful Things at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to express their support of Smith during a gathering being dubbed "We're Together Wednesday."
Shopene said the police department is taking precautionary measures to prepare for the rally, such as having additional officers on hand and informing Pennsylvania State Police of the event.
"I'm making plans to have extra guys on," he said. "We're taking the appropriate steps we need to take to make sure that if the rally does happen everybody can be there and be safe.
In the event there is a counter protest that takes place in opposition to the rally, the stance and approach of the city police department is going to be much like its policy for picket lines.
"We will not take sides, we're just there to keep the peace," Shopene said. "We're just there to make sure everybody is safe and behaves."