As executives of large national companies were signing onto a letter last week condemning the new North Carolina law that overturned local ordinances protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination, the founder of a North Carolina company that sells china and collectibles spoke out against the law with a personal message to his customers.
Bob Page, the founder and CEO of Replacements, Ltd., based in Greensboro, sent an email to his customers sharing details about his personal life — that he is gay and married to his partner, and that the couple has raised adopted twin sons from Vietnam, as well as a teenage boy from Nigeria. He spoke out against the new law and assured customers he ran a tolerant, welcoming business.
“It just seemed so unfair to me,” Page told TPM over the phone on Monday about his decision to send a message to his customers.
He said he was worried about sharing his personal life and feelings about the law with his customers, but felt it was important to speak out.
“I was very nervous about it and still am. And I can promise you, I have gotten a number of responses from people who’d never do business with us again,” Page said. “I was concerned, but I have never been one who’s really motivated by money, and I just felt like this is the time if I was ever going to speak up, that I should do that.”
In his email to his customers, Page assured them that his business is welcoming to LGBT individuals.
“The reaction to North Carolina’s passage of HB2 last Wednesday has been swift and strongly in opposition,” Page wrote in the email. “Amidst this deep concern, which I share, I want to make one thing clear: Replacements, Ltd. affirms the dignity and beauty of each and every person. You will always be warmly welcomed at Replacements, Ltd.”
In addition to sharing details about himself, Page told his customers that his business employs several LGBT individuals.
“At Replacements, Ltd., we are very fortunate to employ a number of extraordinarily talented people who are transgender. These people are like family to me. And having known and worked with many transgender friends over the years, I see in each a reflection of myself,” he wrote. “The thought of being afraid to share space with any one of those good people is hard for me to understand, based on my personal experiences. If you had the opportunity to meet any one of them, I bet you’d feel the same way.”
Page told TPM that he has received more than 11,000 responses to his email. He said that about 98 percent of the responses he said were “overwhelmingly positive,” though he’s gotten “quite a few” negative responses as well
“It’s just been absolutely amazing the things that people have related to me,” he said.
Though he said it’s too early to tell just what kind of impact the new law will have on Replacements, Page said he’s “confident that it is going to hurt our business and other businesses, too.”
Some have told Page that while they support him and his business, they refuse to “spend a dollar in North Carolina until this is repealed.” And others have told Page they will boycott other companies in the state, but not his. Page added that a tour group from Florida that had been planning a tour of Replacements, Ltd. has now cancelled the trip.
Page said that if his company were smaller or if he didn’t own Replacements at all, he would consider leaving the state over the new law.
“If we were just a car dealership or something, certainly we’d want to move,” he told TPM. “If I did not own Replacements, Ltd., I absolutely would move out of North Carolina.”
He criticized the new law as “political posturing” from conservative legislators.
“I think they’re just doing this to gin up their base. I don’t think they really care about gay rights. It’s not a big deal to them. But they will do anything they can for a vote,” he said.
“They got elected based on creating jobs, and they’ve done nothing to do that,” Page said of the state legislature.
Page said he hoped that the officials who pushed the new law “get their just reward in November when we have our elections here.”
Read Page’s full email to his customers:
Today, I take the unusual step of sending you a personal message. Perhaps you, like millions of others, have heard that North Carolina’s recent passage of House Bill 2 – which has been called the worst anti-LGBT bill in the United States – has provoked an outpouring of public concern. Among other things, HB2 bars cities, towns, and counties from prohibiting discrimination of any kind and makes clear that LGBT people may legally be singled out for unfair treatment in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations.
What does this have to do with you? The reaction to North Carolina’s passage of HB2 last Wednesday has been swift and strongly in opposition. Calls for boycotts of our state have been answered by individuals and businesses who will not attend the $5.38 billion, 600,000 visitor High Point furniture market this April and, more generally, by the State of New York, the City of Seattle, and others. Amidst this deep concern, which I share, I want to make one thing clear: Replacements, Ltd. affirms the dignity and beauty of each and every person. You will always be warmly welcomed at Replacements, Ltd.
You may know that I’m gay. One year ago, I married Dale Frederiksen, with whom I’ve shared my life for 27 years. Together, we have raised twin sons we adopted as infants in Vietnam. In July, our boys will be 17. Last summer, we added another teenager, a Nigerian scholar-athlete, to our household. Growing up on a small tobacco farm in rural North Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s and during my three years of active duty service in the United States Army, I never dreamt I could be openly gay and successful, much less that I could have a family of my own. My experience of feeling like an outcast opened my eyes and my heart to all who have been judged for being different. While acceptance of people like me and families like mine has grown – and I am grateful – transgender people today face obstacles similar to those I saw first-hand generations ago. At Replacements, Ltd., we are very fortunate to employ a number of extraordinarily talented people who are transgender. These people are like family to me. And having known and worked with many transgender friends over the years, I see in each a reflection of myself. The thought of being afraid to share space with any one of those good people is hard for me to understand, based on my personal experiences. If you had the opportunity to meet any one of them, I bet you’d feel the same way.
Again, as long-standing advocates for fair treatment, diversity, and inclusion, North Carolina-based Replacements, Ltd. will welcome you with open arms.