The owners of a store in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley say they've been overwhelmed by community support after speaking out about the destruction of Pride flags they displayed of their business.
Sue Littleton and her partner Candice Zaina bought the building in Lawrencetown last summer and earlier this month opened the Bees Knees General store and Bakery, where they sell "a little bit of this and a little bit of that."
While the business has recently been the target of repeated acts of vandalism aimed at their Pride flag, Littleton said the positive community response has been far more powerful than the negativity.
"It was very clear that a message was being sent to us, but what we found is that the community has just been showing us so much love and support," said Littleton.
Business a longstanding dream
Though Littleton and Zaina moved to Nova Scotia from Hamilton, Ont., Littleton's family roots are in Nova Scotia. Her dad grew up in Lawrencetown and she spent much of her childhood in the area.
When Littleton was growing up, the space that currently houses their business was a green grocer.
"I always had a vision for sort of resurrecting this space, so when we saw it come up for sale, we started scheming," she told CBC's Mainstreet.
When the couple came to Nova Scotia for their honeymoon last spring, they began taking steps to put their dream into action and took over the building in June. Soon after taking possession, the couple put up an LGBTQ Pride flag.
"It's important for us to represent our community and signify that we're a safe space."
Issues began as opening approached
For a time, they didn't experience any issues. Then, a couple weeks before the store opened on Dec. 7, the couple came outside one morning to find that the flag had been ripped up.
"And we thought, well, it's just kids being mischievous in the middle of the night or we didn't think too much of it," said Littleton. "And then it happened again and again and then another time."
In total, the flag was vandalized four times, including on Christmas Eve, when the couple found the Pride flag and a Mi'kmaq flag had been ripped down and left on the ground with human feces on top of them.
"There was clearly a message being sent to us."
The RCMP is currently conducting a mischief investigation, though the force said in a release that "investigators are mindful that these incidents may amount to hate crime."
Littleton and Zaina have also added security cameras.
'Incredible' show of solidarity
Littleton said after posting about their experiences on social media, the community has been sending a much stronger message of support.
"The love far outweighs the tiny little bit of hate."
On both social media and in person, people reached out to say they were happy the business exists. Littleton said one father drove from Canning, N.S., with his child, who had recently come out, to visit the store.
The Gay Straight Alliance at the Middleton Regional High School sent a card expressing support, and affirming the importance of having queer adults in the area.
One customer even brought in stickers they'd made using the store's logo.
"It's just an incredible show of love and solidarity," said Littleton.
Message of love outweighs hate
Zaina, who mostly grew up in cities, said the show of support from all backgrounds — from long-standing residents to young people — has been "amazing."
"I've never experienced this in my life. The support has come from all sorts of different demographics."
Littleton said before they moved to Lawrencetown, some people questioned the reception they'd get moving to a small town. But Littleton said small-mindedness can exist anywhere.
"We've experienced more harassment in big cities than we ever had here, and it's so important to us to show that attempted intimidation is not going to work on us we're much stronger than that."
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