OSHKOSH – June is coming to an end, which means that Pride flags and rainbow-themed confectionery will soon be harder to find.
It is true that some companies use the month for their own personal gain without supporting causes or organizations. But at the heart of Pride Month, which marks the birth of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement and the impact its members have had, is an idea that some local business owners lag behind year-round.
Ken Osmond, who owns the Planet Perk cafes in Oshkosh, believes the idea of inclusion is not so much a time of year as a business model. While the cafe does “some performative things” such as hanging signs that everyone is welcome and the Pride flag, he said it also donates to organizations that offer LGBTQ resources and support and provides space for meetings of these groups.
“It’s really just about doing small things to make sure everyone feels welcome,” he said. “It’s about making people feel valued.”
He calls himself old-fashioned, but it turns out that there is research to support this way of thinking. According to a global study by McKinsey & Co. diversity has been shown to improve the company’s end result. Business leaders often measure return on investment, but Out Leadership CEO Todd Sears said “return on equality” is just as important.
For Osmond and other local business owners, Pride Month is less for profit and more for building a community in which they are proud to live and work.
Osmond believes that “the greatest evil on this planet is loneliness”
Planet Perk has had signs on its door since it opened in 1996 to let people know it’s a friendly place to visit. This led LGBTQ organizations to organize meetings in the cafe. Osmond maintains a civic mission for his business by offering discounts to veterans on Mondays, providing clothing to the homeless and supporting local organizations and charities – among many other things.
Since then, it has become a snowball to include everyone, a practice he suggests to his employees. The biggest trait you look for when hiring? Goodness.
“My main belief is that the greatest evil on this planet is loneliness,” Osmond said. “We try to make everyone feel wanted because everyone has something to contribute. And the more difference and diversity there is, the more interesting life becomes.
This made them naturally fit to become a safe space for people who identify as LGBTQ. Osmond said he realized early on that the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh had done a good job of providing resources to students, but had not seen such support off-campus.
“We just felt the need to provide space in the city for people who have no connection to the university,” he said.
Osmond said they were unable to do the usual promotions at the Pride Month cafe this year because its employees were focused on closing Planet Perk at the Grind location; however, he said they would have special offers at the Oshkosh Arena Planet Perk pavilion during the Wisconsin Glo celebrations on Saturday at Pride Weekend.
The professional women’s basketball team plays at 7pm on Saturday at Oshkosh Arena, 1212 S. Main St., and Osmond said Planet Perk will have discounts and special drinks during the game.
Pride Month support is not a “reason to buy a hamburger,” says a local restaurateur
At Becket’s, owner Chris Larson maintains a similar view: Supporting Pride Month is not a “reason to buy a hamburger.” His restaurant has a flag of pride in June, but its business model maintains inclusion throughout the year.
“It’s not something we’re willing to make a living from, but we support this cause because a lot of people who work here and eat here fall into that category,” Larson said. “We want them to feel welcome when they work or eat here, because they don’t always feel welcome elsewhere in the world.”
He explained in detail his position in a post on Facebook on February 28, after his husband called to tell him that he would not return to the restaurant because the flag of pride had been raised.
“As a business, we … support a lot of causes here in our community because we like it here and we like to actively do this better place if we can,” he wrote in the post. “We don’t usually say much about these things because we want to eat here, because you like our food and our people, not because we gave money to your favorite (sic) non-profit or children’s sports team.”
The post collected more than 233 comments and was shared 175 times.
The business is proud to be an equal opportunity employer
One of the first things Wanda Tracy noticed when she was hired as a marketing and event coordinator at Caramel Crisp and Cafe was that its owner, Chanda Anderson, responded to the phrase “equal opportunities employer.”
“She welcomes and even seeks diversity in her staff,” Tracy said. “We currently have several employees who are part of the LGBTQ community and have had (others) in the past.”
On June 1, the cafe, gift shop, and bookstore hosted a “Month of Pride Month” event that included speakers from the Oshkosh LGBTQ community. In addition to their special Pride cookie, which comes out this month and will be in rotation throughout the year, Tracy said they have a bookstore section for Pride Month.
She said the business is working to expand its selection of books, including having an LGBTQ section throughout the year. It also coordinated with UW-Oshkosh’s LGBTQ resource center to host the National Release Day celebration on October 11 and a queer poetic helmet on a date not yet set.
“Caramel Crisp is proud to be a safe place for people to work and shop and they know they can just be themselves without any worries,” Tracy said.
Partners Kevin, Kyle Faust want their sports bar to make everyone feel welcome
When Oshko-born Kyle Faust opened the Winners Sports Bar and Grill, 600 N. Main St., he wanted to create a space that was welcoming to all. Faust, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, said that growing up in Oshkosh, it was difficult to find spaces in which he felt welcome.
Faust moved for a while, living in California, where he met his partner Kevin Faust. The two have been together for eight years. When they returned to Oshkosh, Kyle Faust said he was happy to see the community grow.
“It’s becoming more and more part of the community here,” he said. – It happened naturally.
It was also natural for the Winners Sports bar to become a defender and a safe place for everyone to go out. He said it was important for him to create a hospitable and supportive atmosphere.
“We have a lot of friends who are part of the community, so naturally they support our business and hang out here,” he said. “We don’t just care about one class of people; we are a place where everyone can feel welcome and have fun.”
Faust said he appreciates the Month of Pride, but they focus on creating an inclusive space throughout the year.
On July 10, Winners Sports Bar will host a drag show and brunch with six performers and host Ivy Viola. Participants can purchase tables from four, including bottomless mimosas and brunches, for $ 125. The total entrance for the show only is $ 15 at the door and he came first, served first. Doors open at 11 a.m. and the show begins at noon.
These 9 places in Oshkosh offer safe spaces
Oshkosh’s second annual event takes place on Sunday in South Park. But if you’re looking for companies that others have identified as safe areas in Oshkosh, here are places that members and allies of the LGBTQ community recommend:
- of Beckett, 2 Jackson St.
- Big dad, 300 W. South Park Ave. (to be confirmed)
- Caramel Crisp & Cafe200 City Center, Suite D
- Deb’s free time, 1303 Harrison St.
- Oshkosh Food Co-op155 Jackson St.
- Pete Garage Bar1514 Oregon St.
- Coffeehouses Planet Perk (main location)100 City Center, Suite C
- Wagner Market, 502 N. Main St.
- Winners Sports bar and grill600 N. Main st.