Founded in 1885, Gibson’s Bakery is a fifth-generation family owned small business in Oberlin, Ohio. Gibson’s has been a cornerstone of the Oberlin community and an integral force helping the town get through the Great Depression and other tough challenges over the years.
Whenever there was a need, the Gibson family has been there to step up and help out.
The bakery has also been a long standing supporter of Oberlin College, providing fresh baked goods to their dining halls and catering parties and special events whenever requested.
Nearly half of Oberlin’s residents attend or work at Oberlin College. Unfortunately, the large youth presence has resulted in an excessive number of shoplifting incidents: from 2011 to 2016, Gibson’s Bakery was robbed four times and 33 of 40 shoplifting arrests were college students.
Small business owners have suffered greatly from the shoplifting trend, many of whom lose tens of thousands in annual income as a result.
But no one could have predicted the tragedy that would unfold in Oberlin in November 2016 — an incident with far reaching consequences that still remain unresolved today.
A few evenings after Donald Trump was elected president, underage Oberlin College student (and Student Assistant Treasurer) Jonathan Aladin came to Gibson’s Bakery and tried to purchase wine with a fake ID.
Allyn Gibson was working that night. He rejected the fake ID and discovered that the student was attempting to steal two additional bottles of wine under his jacket. Gibson attempted to call police and two physical altercations ensued, with Aladin slapping Gibson’s face and then assaulting the shop’s owner, David.
Soon after, three additional friends of the shoplifter arrived and viciously assaulted Allyn. All four students were arrested and charged with assault and robbery, respectively.
Word quickly spread across Oberlin, and rather than casting shame on those who robbed and assaulted an innocent citizen and business, hundreds of Oberlin College students and faculty showed up at Gibson’s Bakery the following morning to protest — calling the Gibson family racist and white supremacists, demanding boycotts, and harassing customers.
This continued for days, scaring off customers and frightening the family (despite protection from local police).
Gibson’s long-standing relationship with the college quickly came to a close. A week following the incident, Oberlin College canceled all standing orders and put out public statements disparaging the bakery. The boycotts continued until all business dried up — but the protests most certainly carried on.
The Gibson family tried every possible avenue to solve the crisis, meeting with Oberlin administrators and begging them to retract their baseless claims.
Instead, Oberlin suggested that if students were found to be shoplifting, the bakery should call the Dean rather than police. Rightfully, the family refused and eventually filed a lawsuit against the school in 2017.
The fallout continued. Gibson’s had to layoff employees, cut their operating hours, and retreat into privacy to avoid the negativity surrounding their business.
Tragically, as they awaited trial, the family suffered from numerous health crises, including injuries, ill employees, and a pancreatic cancer diagnosis for David.
Eventually, the jury ruled in favor of Gibson’s, initially giving them a $44 million award that was subsequently reduced to $31 million.
Oberlin College appealed the ruling numerous times, each time being struck down and ordered to pay.
As of today, Oberlin College has not paid the Gibson family a dime and they continue to suffer tragedy after tragedy from a situation beyond their control.
David and Allyn Sr. have both passed on, never seeing their reputation restored and the claims rescinded, and leaving the legacy of Gibson’s and the dying wish that it remain open in David’s wife Lorna Gibson’s hands.
Lorna is doing her best, but the struggle remains. Few customers have returned and new students that arrive at Oberlin College are told to continue the boycotts, leaving little hope that future classes will return through Gibson’s doors.
We must stand up for the Gibson family and demand that Oberlin College pay them the restitution they so desperately need AND rightfully deserve.