ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Misfit Doughnuts and Treats, a popular bakery specializing in vegan options in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood, is closing for good. Former employees claim the closure came when they tried to form a union.
The owner of the business posted an update on its Facebook page Monday night, saying in part: “For the last several months, I have been scrambling to find a successful path. Nothing I tried worked, and it left me with only one option: close the retail business.”
In a release made under the name Misfits United, eight former employees claim the trouble started on September 1, when they presented their letter of intent to unionize.
“We hoped unionizing would address ongoing mistreatment of employees as well as mismanagement of the business,” they wrote.
Misfit moved to its Gregory Street in location in the summer of 2019 after a fire tore through the building where it was previously located on Monroe Avenue five months prior.
The business’ Facebook post said Misfit had barely recovered from the fire when COVID hampered the business a few months later, adding that the owner currently owes the Small Business Administration $70,000, and without assistance, the business would’ve already closed.
Misfits United members claim employees were told on September 29 that the business would close October 9. They say they offered to buy the business that afternoon, with plans to convert it into a worker cooperative with assistance from Cooperation Buffalo, an organization that helps develop cooperatives.
“After a few days of increased hostility and short tense meetings about our offer, Jennifer Johnson posted a note on the kitchen bulletin board announcing a closing time staff meeting for October 3rd, the next day, where we would all be terminated,” they wrote.
Misfits United members claim their offer to buy the business was not taken seriously. They also made a number of unverified claims about the business using non vegan ingredients and serving expired food.
Misfit’s owner responded to the new claims from Misfits United Wednesday, releasing a statement saying in part: “On August 12th, I made a public statement through social media regarding my struggle with the day-to-day operations of Misfit and the possibility of closing. This announcement pre-dates the employees notifying me of their intent to form a union. I was already considering closing the business.”
She also says police are investigating a break-in at the business.
Read the Misfit Doughnuts Facebook post
Read the Misfits United statement in full
On October 3rd, 2021, shop owner Jennifer Johnson declared at a staff meeting: “I have decided to close Misfit Treats and Eats. Today is our last day. Your services will no longer be needed.” Since then, she has made two public statements on her social media that do not convey the full truth. We, the terminated employees, feel obligated to make an official statement and shed further light on the situation.
On September 1st, eight Misfit Treats and Eats employees presented a letter of intent to unionize, responding to an August 18th staff meeting requesting assistance with operational improvements. We hoped unionizing would address ongoing mistreatment of employees as well as mismanagement of the business. After projecting an initial openness to the idea, Jennifer Johnson conducted one-on-one interviews with each employee, which is a known union-busting technique. She also isolated one employee and asked them specific questions about the union.
Early morning on September 29th, Jennifer Johnson informed employees by text message that “effective October 9th we will be closing our doors as Misfit Treats and Eats,” citing “physical, emotional, and mental” exhaustion, as well as an unviable business model and debt. This gave us a 10 day notice before our unemployment. That afternoon, we offered to purchase Misfit Treats and Eats, planning to convert the business to a worker cooperative in partnership with Cooperation Buffalo, who specialize in guiding these types of conversions.
After a few days of increased hostility and short tense meetings about our offer, Jennifer Johnson posted a note on the kitchen bulletin board announcing a closing time staff meeting for October 3rd, the next day, where we would all be terminated.
On social media, she claimed she had “only one option: close the retail business and lay everyone off.” Regarding our offer to buy the shop, she claimed “it would take a minimum of six months and I didn’t have six months left in me.” In truth, her own mismanagement of employees, inventory, customer relations, and vendor relations added up to an unviable business model. In addition, that time estimation was a typical timeline based on Cooperation Buffalo’s standard procedure, and we explained that our circumstances could allow us to expedite that process. She would not be required to work long hours either, as we were prepared to help her delegate responsibilities to lessen her workload. Our words were not taken with serious consideration.
This continues a long history of treating employees with a lack of respect. In addition to our own experiences, several former employees have shared their own. During the operation of Misfit Treats and Eats, Jennifer Johnson has screamed at employees, deadnamed and misgendered employees, punished employees by cutting their hours with no explanation, withheld pay from employees, called local restaurants and told them not to hire certain former employees, used non vegan ingredients despite multiple attempts by employees to intervene, and made employees serve expired and moldy food. She maintained no boundaries between business and her personal life, including instances of unwanted and unsolicited physical contact, discussing sexual matters, and sharing sexually explicit content at work.
While initially continuing business through special orders and wholesale, following some social media backlash and “further consideration” she announced a complete closure last night, October 4th. Still, we ask you to boycott future businesses by Jennifer Johnson. She should not get the chance to treat more people the way she has, and her actions show no intention to change.
Moving forward, we will continue our partnership with Cooperation Buffalo to begin the process of forming a worker-owned cooperative.
Multiple community members, recognizing the precarity of our situation, have offered to support us financially, to make sure we are housed and fed while we figure out our next steps. You can venmo us @misfitstreatsunited. Please use a subject such as ‘mutual aid’, ‘donation’, or ‘solidarity’.
For further questions please email us at email@example.com. Any further announcements will be posted @misfits.treats.united on Instagram.Misfits United