LGBTQ-affirming Coffee Shop in The Woodlands Faces Backlash
Conduit Coffee's owners are determined to build bridges in the community with their business.
Christina Reece, 35, and her partner, Robin Farrar, 40, opened Conduit Coffee in 2021 as a safe and affirming space for all. “I want everyone to feel seen and loved and celebrated, because I don’t know if that’s happening when you leave my doors.”
On April 8, Reece posted this to her Instagram account: Well y’all, just another day of someone NOT minding their business. I had this guy open our door today and shout very aggressively, “If you took down your flag maybe you’d get more fucking business. This is the fucking Woodlands.”
“It’s not the first time, or the last,” Reece says. When the coffee shop opened in April of 2021, the couple put a Pride flag in the window and never took it down. Then they added a few more, and also created bathroom signs with a stick figure in a skirt, a stick figure in half a skirt, an alien, and a two-headed stick figure. “It’s just a fun way to show who we are,” she adds. “We’ve never hidden the fact we’re a queer business. It’s not a secret.”
Reece, from California, moved to The Woodlands in 2014 with her ex-wife, whose family is from the area. The master-planned township of around 115,000 is known for its conservative politics and culture. In June of 2020, Township board member Shelley Sekula-Gibbs cited her Christian faith when criticizing the phrase “sexual orientation and identity” in a proclamation read by fellow board member Ann Snyder a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from employment discrimination.
Sekula-Gibbs said, “I cannot in good conscience support the words ‘sexual orientation and identity’ that were used to replace the word ‘sex.’”
The shop has built connections with other local businesses to sell their products, including pastries from Chic Sweets Fine Desserts, ice cream from Luliet Creamery and Bake Shop, and homemade coffee syrups. Reece says the community has been supportive, but it’s not uncommon for people to make remarks like the one she posted on Instagram. She’s also had derogatory comments posted on Google, but those unusually get taken down.
“We had a woman come in here once while her husband was parking the car,” Reece says. “I was sitting outside with some friends, and he came up and saw our Pride sign, ran in, and grabbed his wife and dragged her out. He couldn’t get her out of there fast enough—like he was going to catch the Gay.
“Most of the staff is queer,” Reece notes, “and they want to keep the flag up. But they are young, and I hate it when people come in and yell at them. We are a family-friendly place, we have games for the kids. We have a community of LGBTQ people and allies, but it’s not easy.”
When Conduit Coffee opened, the only other LGBTQ-friendly business in Montgomery County was Ranch Hill Saloon, a gay bar in Spring. “We hope some other queer businesses open soon,” says Reece. “I’ve never really felt like I belonged here, but I don’t feel like our lives are in danger.”
When asked why she stays in business, Reece’s answer is simple: “Somebody has to! It’s beautiful here, I love the trees, and our community here is beautiful. Not everyone is cut out to build bridges, to talk to people with different beliefs, but that’s my purpose.”
Follow Conduit Coffee at twtxconduitcoffee.com, and The Woodlands Pride at thewoodlandspride.org