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Gibson's Bakery struggling after loss of Oberlin College business, owner says

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OBERLIN — David Gibson says he hasn’t been able to pay himself since the shoplifting incident last year prompted Oberlin College to stop buying from the eponymously named bakery.

When asked if the bakery could continue to maintain its same hours, Gibson said he’s not sure.

“We’ve got a lot of decisions to make and we’re going to have to see how this goes,” Gibson said. “I can tell you that I haven’t taken a paycheck since this has happened. I’ve been working on just trying to keep the business alive.”

Gibson sued the college this week, asking for more than $200,000 in damages and accusing the college and its vice president, Meredith Raimondo, of libel and slander and interfering with the bakery’s business contracts.

The lawsuit reignites a rift between the bakery and the college that began last year when a student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID while also concealing two bottles of wine under his shirt from Allyn Gibson, David Gibson’s son.

The incident became racially charged because Allyn Gibson is white while the student and two others also charged in the incident are black. All three students pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor charges and read statements into the record acknowledging that Allyn Gibson was within his right to detain the shoplifter and that his actions were not racially motivated.

By that time, however, the damage had been done, Gibson said.

According to the lawsuit, flyers advising students and residents not to shop at Gibson’s were handed out during protests in front of the bakery and pinned to announcement boards in college buildings.

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Ethlyn Kennedy shows her support outside Gibson’s Bakery. A group called Totally Engaged Americans of Lorain County gathered at the Oberlin business Wednesday morning. BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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On Wednesday, a group called Totally Engaged Americans of Lorain County gathered at the business in support. Some held signs saying “Oberlin College Supported Criminals” and “I support Gibson’s.”

“We’re here to support Gibson’s bakery … because it seems like Oberlin College is not interested in supporting Gibson’s,” said Kirsten Penton Hill, the director of Totally Engaged Americans.

“From the articles it seems like Oberlin College is being a bully and are suggesting Gibson’s report thieves to them before they report them to the Police Department. Well how is Gibson’s going to determine who’s a college student and who’s not?”

Don Killinger, a Lorain resident and a member of the group, said it was his first time at Gibson’s. He said he came to support the bakery’s effort to stay open.

“They have a right to stand for what is right and not allow shoplifting to occur in their store,” Killinger said.

David Gibson said any support helps, but losing the college’s business has been a severe blow.

“I’ve always been proud of Oberlin, my community, and we’ve worked our lives — my father and myself — to try to make Oberlin a good place to live and to do business,” David Gibson said. “Has it been stressful? It’s extremely stressful on my family and my employees.”

The number of employees “is down considerably” David Gibson said, and the bakery is making significantly fewer products.

David Gibson would not comment as to whether other businesses surrounding the bakery are affected.

“It just got to the point where we didn’t feel like we’d gotten our name back and that we just didn’t want to have us as individuals and our business and the community afraid to live and work here,” David Gibson said.

“We just do our best to be positive. I would hope eventually we could get through this and bring the community together. It’s been a very difficult time.”

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com.



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