ELYRIA — The 2016 protests by Oberlin College students at Gibson’s Bakery and the resulting fallout will cause nearly $6 million in damage, an expert witness for the bakery testified.
Frank Monaco, a CPA with 415 Group in Canton, testified that the actions of the Oberlin College and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students at the school, will cost Gibson’s Bakery $5.8 million in lost revenue over the next 30 years.
Monaco took the stand on the eighth day of the civil trial between the bakery and the college. Gibson’s sued the college and Raimondo for libel, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, intentional infliction of emotional distress and trespass in 2017. The bakery also is suing the college for negligent hiring, retention and supervision.
Monaco said the Gibsons’ businesses were damaged by allegations from students and a resolution by the college’s student senate that the bakery had a “long history of racial profiling” and that the owners were racist. Monaco said he believes it will take a generation for the damage caused by the allegations to be corrected, which he said will take 30 years.
The rift between the bakery and the college began in 2016 when a student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID and shoplift from Allyn D. Gibson, who is the son of the bakery’s owner, David Gibson. Allyn D. Gibson followed the student out of the store, and the two got into a physical altercation.
Two other students got involved, and police have said when they arrived the three students were hitting Allyn D. Gibson while he was on the ground.
Allyn D. Gibson is white and the students are black, and the incident escalated. All three students pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor charges and read statements into the record acknowledging that Allyn D. Gibson was within his right to detain the shoplifter and that his actions were not racially motivated.
In the two days following the shoplifting incident, Oberlin College students protested in front of the bakery and passed out flyers urging people to boycott the bakery because of the bakery’s history of racial profiling. Oberlin College stopped ordering from the bakery for 28 days after the protests before resuming in January 2017.
The college once again ceased ordering from Gibson’s after the lawsuit was filed in November 2017.
Monaco testified that $2.8 million of the damages Gibson’s has, and will, suffered were from the loss of business at the bakery.
He outlined the losses were from the loss of revenue after students stopped using Obie Dollars at the bakery. Obie Dollars are similar to a debit card in which money is placed in an account, by the students’ parents or by the student themselves, and the card then used to make purchases on campus or in nearby businesses.
Monaco also said Gibson’s Bakery is losing a large amount of revenue after the college’s campus dining services stopped purchasing baked goods and other products for use in the college’s campus dining options.
Finally, the bakery is losing business from students, their parents and college staff not shopping at the bakery any longer, Monaco said.
Another $985,000 will be lost from rental properties owned by David Gibson, testimony said. Prior to the protests, there was a waiting list for apartments in David Gibson’s buildings, but since the protests students will no longer rent from him, Monaco said.
Monaco also estimated Gibson’s will lose another $2 million in revenue from not being able to follow through with a business plan that would have seen two more apartment buildings built in the coming years.
Attorneys for Oberlin College and Raimondo, though, strongly disagreed with Monaco’s assessment.
Matt Nakon, an attorney for the defendants, said they viewed Monaco’s analysis as “overstated, inaccurate, speculative and that you employed subjective bias in favor of the plaintiffs” in reaching his conclusions.
Nakon showed that Gibson’s Bakery had been losing money in the years from 2010 until prior to the protests. Monaco agreed that the business had lost about 16 percent in revenue from 2010 until November 2016; however, he showed that after the protests, the losses became even greater.
In December 2016, the bakery’s revenue dropped 23 percent from December 2015, Monaco said. After the first quarter of 2019, Monaco projects the bakery’s revenue will drop 48 percent from 2016.
He also said he doesn’t believe the losses have yet “bottomed out.”
Nakon also questioned Monaco on whether the bakery was really a “successful business.” Monaco said he didn’t know how a business could stay afloat since 1885 without being successful.
The attorney for the college pointed out that many small towns, like Oberlin, have a family-owned general store in them. Monaco, though, argued that those small stores haven’t been owned by the same family for five generations, like Gibson’s Bakery.
Testimony in the trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. today. The attorneys for Gibson’s hope to rest their case at some point today.
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