It started with a sticker. About four years ago, baker Haley Popp slapped a sticker on the front of her shop that declared she and her team affirm LGBTQ rights.
Or, as Popp puts it, “We’ll make cakes for fucking anybody.”
Many residents of Flower Mound, a suburb of about 80,000 northwest of Dallas where Popp’s Hive Bakery is based, were not happy. According to the baker, it was around this time that her neighbors (many of whom used a Facebook group called “Flower Mound Cares”) started calling her, among other things, “fucking trash,” a “fucking bitch” or a “fucking whore.” The harassment wasn’t confined to the internet, either.
Popp, whose vibrant red hair is instantly recognizable, has appeared on Food Network’s Halloween Wars and become, as her staff puts it, “Flower Mound famous.” That’s not always a good thing.
“I've had someone call me a bitch to my face at Target,” she says. “Certain members of this town have disdain for me and things I stand for.”
In other words, the sticker incident sparked a trend: Popp speaks up about equality, rights and movements like Black Lives Matter, and hordes of conservative trolls emerge with profane posts, abusive phone calls and emails pledging to end her career. The trend has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When COVID hit and we were mask-mandating in the store, people would come here and yell stuff like, ‘It's my fucking right; I don't have to wear this shit in your store,’” Popp says.
Then, in early May, the harassment took on a different hue.
Following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that signals the court will overturn abortion rights, Popp used the Hive Bakery social media accounts to post a picture of a cake with the words “My Body, My Choice” etched in icing. The backlash was swift, with many commenters labeling Popp a “murderer” and one person writing, in part, that they will “make it my duty to take as much clientele as possible.”
“Fuck you for supporting murdering innocent babies that cannot fight back,” the commenter continued. “Hope you feel real important bitch.”
Popp is used to this kind of response, but over the phone with the Observer roughly a week after the leak, she admitted the harassment was particularly vile this time.
“I think what put this over the top this time is obviously abortion is a hot-button issue, and we live in a very Trumper voter area, so they've been emboldened to spew hate,” she says.
Eventually, Popp started capturing screen shots of comments and posting them on social media — name and all. That led to a series of emails wherein the harassers would cycle through some combination of fury, legal threats and, ultimately, an apology and plea for the post to be taken down.
Fortunately, the response hasn’t been all negative.
When Popp first began sharing her views openly, she held out hope that she wouldn’t be the lone liberal voice.
“Anytime there's anything of note that's going on in the world, I want to speak about it — especially to the people in my town,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘There have to be more people like me here. I can't be the only one.’”
She was right.
In the last week, the Hive faithful have rallied around the bakery with words of encouragement and blockbuster sales. In fact, on the Saturday morning after the Supreme Court leak, the line of customers stretched out the door and into the parking lot. That afternoon, all the shelves were completely bare: The bakery was sold out hours before closing.
As of Tuesday, May 10, a full week after the leak, Popp said the store was still selling out every day. “I think we might have a cupcake and a brownie, and that’s it,” she said.
Popp relishes that love, which, thankfully, always shows up just as the trolls roll in.
"We've always had customers who have had our back,” she says. “If you drop a dirty sentence online, there's a swarm of people ready to have our back. [The support] really proves to me that this town is not all alt-right conservative. There's a very large pocket of liberals here in the Flower Mound area.”
Hive Bakery occupies a sliver of the suburb’s picturesque Parker Square. Nestled between a frame store and a brunch place, it’s probably not where you’d expect to find a haven of baked goods and “progressive” opinions like a belief in bodily autonomy. Popp is quick to point out that she is neither a Democrat nor a Republican; in her words, “Hive and I stand for all things that are equality in life.”
Even still, she’s eager to get a Democrat to visit her bakery: gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke.
“I have to do what's best for my family and my friends,” she says, and to her, that means campaigning for O’Rourke. By bringing the candidate to town, she hopes to further encourage local liberals and all disengaged parties to vote for candidates who support reproductive rights and equality at large.
“In the suburbs, I think there’s a large crop of people who don’t actively involve themselves in politics because they think it doesn’t affect them,” she says. “But they’re wrong. Things like overturning Roe v. Wade will echo for generations.”