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A Bradford, Vt. coffee shop celebrating queer visibility still 'feels kind of radical'

Four people sit around a table at a coffee shop, looking at the camera. They're smiling, it's evening.
Lexi Krupp
/
Vermont Public
Jamie Shechtman of Vershire, Nikki Stevens, Molly Morin and Rebecca Joy Henrietta White, all of Bradford, were hanging out at an "Out in Bradford" event at Vittles House of Brews this February.

Earlier this year, Steve Waye did an internet search for “gay events” and his zip code in Wells River.

“I used to live in a big city, so there were a hundred returns for that search,” he said. “But not anymore.”

Waye left Oakland, California a few years ago to escape the wildfires and smoke. In Vermont he was looking "to make contact with actual people instead of app people," he said. 

That’s how he ended up playing UNO and listening to Radiohead on a Friday night at Vittles House of Brews this winter.

"The first time we came, I met three new-to-me trans people, which feels like a miracle out here. I’m usually the only trans person in a room."
Nikki Stevens, Bradford

The room was full of people. Sitting nearby were a couple professors from Dartmouth College, a local state representative, young farmers, and someone tabling for Planned Parenthood.

It’s the sort of scene Travis Gendron would have never encountered growing up in the area.

“I’m sort of blown away right now by the amount of people [here],” he said.

He’s the co-owner of Vittles with his wife, Kendall Gendron. For half a year, they've been hosting these monthly events called “Out in Bradford.”

“This is the night that we are setting aside specifically for queer people and queer allies,” Kendall told me by phone. “You can’t walk through the door without knowing.”

A man wearing a colorful shirt, a fedora hat and glasses is behind a bar in a warmly lit coffee shop, preparing a drink.
Lexi Krupp
/
Vermont Public
Travis Gendron is the co-owner of Vittles. He grew up in Corinth and went to high school in Bradford. He said there wouldn't have been an event like this for the queer community back then.

So far, they've been a hit.

"The first time we came, I met three new-to-me trans people, which feels like a miracle out here," said Nikki Stevens, from Bradford, who was sitting with a group of friends. "I’m usually the only trans person in a room. So to see brand-new faces was quite a delight."

For Rebecca Joy Henrietta White, who also grew up in the area, the event is just as significant for the people who aren’t there.

"It’s also important for the community to see," she said. "We can integrate and peacefully coexist, because it hasn’t always felt like that."

A sign with purple letters and a black background is lit up against the black night sky. It says Vittles House of Brews. The logo is the head of a goat above a pentagram.
Lexi Krupp
/
Vermont Public
Vittles has been hosting a monthly event called "Out in Bradford" for the past six months.

Not everyone has loved what the coffee shop is doing. Earlier this year, the pride flag hanging outside was stolen. They still get the occasional angry email.

But it's not something the owners dwell on. For them, holding the monthly gatherings feels like a responsibility.

"Almost like a moral obligation," Kendall Gendron said. "You can’t get that experience anywhere else within like a 30-, 50-mile radius."

_

Lexi Krupp is a corps member with Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.

Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.

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