GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - When Xcite’s Sweet Connections first started getting some increased business, owner Chlarissa Harrison did not realize much of it was due to protesters seeking out her shop, because it is Black-owned.
“I thought someone discovered us and we got lucky,” Harrison said, laughing. “Because we’ve had some bad luck here lately.”
Protests in Gastonia started after a woman claimed she was treated poorly at Tony's Ice Cream while wearing a 'Black Lives Matter' pin.
"A lady there did yell at me and say, 'Get out, you are not wanted here,'" Lydia Robinson told reporters.
The protesters started one-night getting ice cream at Harrison’s shop, before heading to Tony’s to protest. It sparked rumors that she and her family are a part of protests, or even that they started them.
Harrison said those are all rumors, and are not true.
“It was saying we are an Antifa and radical Black racism headquarters,” Harrison said. “Which completely caught me off guard, because it’s just completely opposite of who we are.”
Harrison said she did not ask to be involved, but now that she is, she said she has spoken with both protesters and the owner at Tony’s Ice Cream to learn all perspectives.
“I heard the sincerity in his voice, he seemed like a really nice guy,” Harrison said. “If there was bad customer service, that’s different than being racist.”
Now, Harrison is encouraging everyone involved to take a step back, and have a productive conversation.
“Because if we go down this route, and keep going down this route, we are all going to fail,” she said. “It’s not just going to be Tony’s that’s failed, it’s not going to Xcite that’s failed, Gastonia is going to fail if we don’t come together and fix this now.”
Xcite’s Sweet Connections is hosting a Community Unity Event Friday night at 7 p.m. beside the ice cream shop, that had already been planned. They are hoping some of that productive conversation may now happen there.