When Erica Brubaker lived in Colorado, she canvassed door-to-door to fight for the issues and causes she cared about most.
Now, as the owner of Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot in Bozeman, Montana, she takes a different tactic.
“I get to create change right in my business,” Erica explains. “It’s a new and productive way I can in influence change in Montana. Honestly, it’s been one of the best parts of being a business owner.”
Erica and her husband, Ryan, have owned Wild Joe’s for 3 years, and openness and inclusivity have been driving forces since day one.
“Providing a safe space for everyone that walks in the door is our top priority—including things like gender neutral restrooms,” she explains.
Erica joined Pride Foundation’s supportive business initiative, Open to All, so that she could live out her values as a business owner publicly. She wants everyone in town to know that they will be treated with respect in her shop, whether they work there or are stopping in for a cup of coffee.
“We have 14 employees, and one of the reasons people tell us they want to work here is that it’s a welcoming, open space. We are passionate about treating every single person who walks through our doors equally—regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income level.”
Open to All began in 2016 to strengthen the network of businesses and organizations committed to creating safe spaces for all LGBTQ+ people who live, work, and visit Montana. Since then, more than 250 businesses, non-profits, and community groups have joined.
In places like Alaska, Idaho, and Montana where LGBTQ+ people do not have statewide non-discrimination protections and can still be discriminated against legally, collaboration across sectors is critical to creating a better, safer world for LGBTQ+ people.
Pride Foundation has also deepened partnerships with two of our grantees in Bozeman—Montana Racial Equity Project and Bridgercare— to ensure racial, disability, and gender justice are prioritized with participating business owners. Together, these organizations have empowered an additional 60+ businesses to join the initiative.
“We are helping to show that all of our issues and communities are intertwined, and that the LGBTQ+ community in Montana is incredibly diverse,” Kim Leighton, Pride Foundation’s Regional Officer in Montana, explains. “LGBTQ+ people hold many identities—our community is made up of people of color, people living with disabilities, and more.
These identities are not separate.”
Over the coming years, Pride Foundation hopes to expand support for businesses participating in Open to All through network-building opportunities, trainings, informational newsletters, and supporting efforts to make their spaces even more welcoming and affirming.
When Erica reflects on Wild Joe’s future involvement with Open to All, her answer is simple:
“I want to help create a city where people feel welcomed as they are. We have to be open—as businesses, and as people—if we want to grow.”
To join Open to All or to learn more, visit pridefoundation.org/open-to-all.