With a tea party-backed tea party wave, tea party activists have taken over major stores nationwide.
They’ve made tea party friendly with “fair trade” and tea party inspired “local sourcing.”
But some customers say they’re left feeling unwelcome.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents independent floristic companies, says it has received complaints about florism and tea parties at a number of stores.
Its vice president, Mary Ann Nesbitt, says she’s been inundated with complaints about tea party shoppers who want to shop at a tea-party friendly store.
“There’s just a lot of animosity there,” she says.
“It’s like a community-wide hatred.”
Nesbit says she and other tea party supporters are using their influence to fight back against tea party forces.
Tea Party activists have tried to drive a wedge between independent florsists and big chains by refusing to sell tea party products, she says, adding that many of the tea party groups are not even affiliated with tea party organizations.
The tea party is also pressuring independent flores to “rebrand” themselves to avoid being lumped into the tea-partying movement, Nesbits says.
The national federation says it’s received more than 2,000 complaints about shop owners and tea- party customers over the past year.
The association says its members are receiving more than 1,300 complaints a day, with complaints at stores like Walmart, Sears and Target.
Nesbs office received a call on Monday from a customer who says she is upset about a tea shop at the Colesville, Ohio, store, according to the complaint.
The customer said she wanted to know if tea party merchandise was being sold at the store, but she wasn’t told the store was a tea group shop, the complaint says.
NESBIT says the customer said the store’s tea party theme was the same as that of a tea store in the state of Iowa, where the customer lives.
“This is a real concern,” Nesbas says.
She says she has been in touch with Colesville store owners and says they are working to “educate” customers about the tea shop and its shop-in-shop policy.
But she says many tea party customers are just looking for a place to shop that is not affiliated with a tea club.
Tea party advocates say they want to keep shop-by-shop decisions about tea and other products from tea party members to themselves.
But independent flora owners say they don’t think they should be subject to such a “conspiracy” and are working with the tea group to “defend our values.”
The association, which has offices in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C., says it does not have enough members to form an official union.
Tea-party supporters also say tea-shop policies don’t necessarily align with their beliefs, like the Tea Party Patriots, a group that calls itself the “largest Tea Party advocacy group in America.”
The group’s website says it “is committed to protecting freedom of speech and promoting a free marketplace for all products, goods, services and products.”
In a statement to the Associated Press, a spokeswoman for Tea Party Express, the group that runs the Coles stores, said the group does not represent any tea party group and “stands by our policy.”
“We are not affiliated to the Tea Parties,” spokeswoman Heather McAfee said in an email.
“The Coles Tea Party Association is a non-partisan, independent business association that serves its members.”
She says the association has been “very vocal” about its support for tea party policies and has received “thousands” of complaints about the Coleseans tea party, but that it has “been very limited in our ability to speak on the issue.”
McAfee says the tea parties “hasn’t been very vocal” in its policy positions.
Narsbitt says tea party shop-outreach is important, but tea party advocates “can’t ignore it.”
The national tea party has its own rules for tea shop rules, she adds, such as the store should have a “safe and courteous environment” and that tea party guests should be greeted respectfully.
But tea party leaders say the tea groups policies are not the same and say tea party stores should respect all customers.
The Georgia-based National Association of Tea Parties says it opposes any boycott of any tea-related products or products made by tea groups.
In a July 15 letter to Colesville stores, the association said it supports the establishment of “safe spaces” for tea-group customers to “exercise their First Amendment rights and avoid confrontation and confrontation.”