When Joy Drawdy and her wife opened a business in June 2022, they connected with their clientele and the surrounding shop owners.
“In that time, it was overwhelmingly supportive,” she told The Independent Florida Alligator.
It was a gift shop selling clothes and crafts created by LGBT artists and People of Color. It was called Restless Mommas and in Micanopy, a small town of 600 in north central Florida near Gainesville.
Drawdy said business was good, but everything came crashing down when Micanopy Commissioner Mike Roberts began making derogatory comments about their sexuality and presence in the city.
It started when their landlord received a letter from the town commission claiming the Pride flag displayed on the store was a “zoning issue” and requested to remove it, according to Alligator.
Despite neighboring businesses flying American and Police Lives Matter flags, they didn’t complain and complied with the ordinance.
But things got worse from there.
Drawdy heard of a private conversation Roberts was a part of where he criticized their sexuality. A client of his asked if he knew the women who’d just opened a shop downtown.
“Do you mean the two lesbian women who bought a business downtown?” the Alligator reported.
Drawdy heard variations of that story from other people and became more unsettled.
“In such a small town, we couldn’t escape. We couldn’t do business,” Drawdy said. “It was all anybody was talking about.”
This wasn’t the first time Roberts expressed his views on LGBT people. About 10 years ago, he made Facebook posts with statements such as “being homosexual is a sin,” and “I just feel sorry for these people. A eternity in Hell is their reward.”
Roberts declined to comment on the allegation of driving out the business or his views on LGBT people when reached out by the Alligator.
Drawdy then started noticing people in trucks pull up in front of their business and “rev up their engines” before skidding away.
They also received spiteful comments on Facebook. She began to worry about her family’s safety, and so they left town Jan. 8.
Before leaving, Drawdy and two or three other business owners took the issue to the Town Hall. After talking with Town Administrator Sara Owen, she was told the issue would be addressed in the Town Commission meeting Jan. 10.
However it was never put on the agenda.
At the meeting, about 25 people showed up, many who were supportive of the Drawdys. One of them was Holiday Russell, an attorney and owner of Two Parrots Gallery.
“They’re not ones to make stuff up,” he said after the meeting. “They’re not ones to be bombastic or dramatic.”
“To have two women invest in a business in this town — that helps us all — be discriminated against because they’re gay is not OK,” Deborah Hart, a resident, said.
Roberts, a self-employed insurance agent, explains that he never meant to discriminate against anyone, and said the allegations were a “misunderstanding” of the conversation he had with his client.
The Drawdys are working on moving the remnants of Restless Mommas to Gainesville, where they own another business, Alligator reported. They set up a corner with mementos called “little Restless Mommas” as homage to their last store.