Thirsty Scholar Issues Statement on 111 Cakery Controversy

After a same-sex wedding cake wasn’t made, a brief hubbub broke out. Here, Kevin Schmidlin of Thirsty Scholar, a neighboring business that sells the cakery’s goods, responds, as do members of the LGBT community.


In mid-March, a short-lived furor broke out among Indianapolis LGBT community members and their allies over 111 Cakery‘s stance on same-sex marriage, as the shop’s owner, Trish McGrath, refused on religious principles to make a cake for a pair of men soon to wed. The sprinkles settled on that kerfuffle, though offended parties called for 111 Cakery to shut its doors permanently. Amidst a firestorm of comments posted on the cakery’s Facebook page that were alternately thoughtful and hateful, McGrath deactivated that account. In her final post on the page (at left), she said that she had not made a spot decision, but rather one mulled in prayer, with much “soul searching.”

McGrath did not return multiple requests for comment, but a neighbor and business partner of the Penn Arts building’s owner did. Thirsty Scholar, an eclectic beer-wine-coffee bar on the same corner of 16th and Delaware streets, was conceived by co-owners Christopher Piazza and Kevin Schmidlin to anchor the commerical base of the Penn Arts Building. That building is owned and operated by Reverie Estates, a development company at which Piazza serves as president. Thus, of course, 111 Cakery pays rent to Reverie for its business space. Reverie as a company was a supporter of Freedom Indiana‘s fight to halt marriage bill HJR-3 at the Statehouse earlier this year.

Here’s the statement that Schmidlin released exclusively to IM:

Dear Friends & Associates,

We started Thirsty Scholar with three huge symbols in our windows—a peace sign, a heart, and an equality symbol. The equality symbol represented our passionate belief in the right of every human to marry the person that they love. Our belief in this basic human right is unchanged and unwavering, and we were part of the fight against the divisive and discriminative HJR-3 because we believe in a state that embraces all people, and we believe in love.

For us, the answer is not to segregate those who hold different beliefs, but to seek harmony and understanding with all of our brothers and sisters, and it is with this spirit that we hope to be an inspiration to our neighbor 111 Cakery.


Kevin J. Schmidlin
President, Thirsty Scholar LLC

“Thirsty Scholar will continue to carry 111 Cakery products,” Schmidlin said via e-mail. “I can’t speak as to whether or not [the cakery] will continue to abide in the building. Those are not matters that pertain to me. Therefore, I have not even inquired with anyone about that.”

Notably, not all LGBT-identifying individuals are aligned in stark opposition to 111 Cakery’s position. That community’s members have expressed a range of responses—understanding, ambivalent, fence-sitting, or overtly opposed to the Cakery—via social media as the largely online fracas swirled, and then later in interviews. The word “bullying” came up a couple of times. Here’s a look at excerpts from those posts and interviews:

“This is a free market, and just as the proprietors of 111 Cakery feel they can choose to not do business with the LGBT community based on their religious beliefs, we have the right to not to go to their business and to tell our friends, co-workers, or anyone else not to support them. The stupefying part for me is the utter lack of awareness of their surroundings. They are situated between Greg’s and The Varsity Lounge, two of the oldest gay bars in the state, not to mention they are next to the Harrison Center for the Arts and across the street from Herron High [School]. It seems rather obvious that they were establishing their business in a liberal and LGBT-friendly neighborhood. To think that their discrimination would go unnoticed just seems particularly tone deaf.”
Nicholas Murphy, president, Indy Pride

“If you want someone to respect you, treating them poorly is the wrong approach. … I hate to see a company lose what they worked so hard for just because of one unhappy customer. … In a way we are actually bullying them into doing what we want them to do. We’re not earning their respect; we’re actually bullying them into giving it to us.”
Jeremy Frodge, Carmel

“If there are bakeries in town discriminating based on some criteria, then there is obviously a market for a bakery that doesn’t discriminate. One that markets to all walks of life. I would just ask questions of the one you are purchasing from and do your own research. That’s number one, who supports your individual mission. Buy from them. … The two most powerful tools that people have in their arsenal are, one, access to the ballot and voting for who represents them, and two, their wallet—choosing where to spend their dollars. So an individual decides not to spend dollars at a business like Chic-fil-A. If I were to say ‘No Boy Scout troupes allowed,’ and One Million Moms for Boy Scout Troupes started a boycott, I would deserve it.”
Aaron Schaler, owner, Pizza King Indianapolis

“Thirsty Scholar, In light of 111 Cakery’s decision to to refuse to provide a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding, please reconsider your options and select another vendor for your deserts and pastries. With their business practices in Indy’s largest and most affluent gayborhood I hope it is only a matter of time that they are forced to relocate or close their doors.”
David Hobson, Indianapolis, on Thirsty Scholar’s Facebook page

I’m sure the owners of this bakery probably have had a lifelong dream to open their own place and do what they love. Do you really want to destroy someone’s dreams because someone didn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple that you don’t even know or have met before? … Attacking this bakery makes us look little and bullyish. If it’s that important to you, go support a bakery that won’t discriminate. There are plenty out there.”
Jesse Miller, Indianapolis

What are your own thoughts on this matter?

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  • JohnM_1798

    Chef Joseph’s at The Connoisseur Room issued the following statement on March 13th, 2014
    I would like to post a personal apology for my company’s use of 111 Cakery for past events. After speaking directly with the owner Trish, I have confirmed the business’s discriminatory practices and must assure all of our guests that we will no longer work with or patronize this company in any way. All of us deserve better. Thank you – John Mays – Proprietor

  • JohnR_1032

    The owner of the Thirsty Scholar will continue to serve cupcakes provided by neighboring 111 Cakery. 111 Cakery was in the news recently for discriminating against a gay couple. Here is the kicker, Thirsty Scholar is owned by Chris Piazza. Chris also owns the building that houses both the Thirsty Scholar and 111 Cakery. So while he proudly displays equality signs in the window of the Thirsty Scholar, he is more than happy to collect rent from 111 Cakery and promote their products. We are being fooled by his superficial stance on promoting equality while he lines his pockets from those who oppose equality

  • JohnR_1032

    I wanted to add to my comments by saying CHEERS to Mr. John May. I am new to town and had not heard of your restaurant. My wife and I will be patronizing his establishment in the very near future. Bravo to Mr. May for taking a stand. I have always found that a socially aware business has always provided the best customer service. I stand behind you and will spend my discretionary income at businesses that are inclusive rather than exclusive.

  • ChristopherP_9017

    Hello everyone,

    I thought I would clarify a few things to make sure the truth is represented. I will not be reading any further comments after this post.

    – Reverie Estates owns the Penn Arts building (not me personally). I am the President of Reverie Estates.

    – 111 Cakery has a lease with Reverie Estates.

    – Reverie Estates absolutely does not support the discrimination that took place at 111 Cakery.

    – Reverie Estates is an active supporter of Freedom Indiana. One can see our statement for equality through the following link:

    – Thirsty Scholar’s stance is not superficial, but rather it involved significant and deep reflection.

    – Mr. John R, I will only say that if you knew me and what I stand for, rest assured that you would not say such ugly things about me in this comments section, on Yelp, and wherever else you have personally attacked me. Please remember that I am a real person, and the things you are are saying are undeserved, false, and potentially slanderous.

    Reverie Estates will continue aspiring to have a positive and meaningful impact on Indianapolis, and we will also continue to support efforts to bring marriage equality to Indiana.

    All the best,

    Christopher Piazza

    • JohnR_1032

      Mr. Piazza

      I checked with the city of Indianapolis and you are listed as an owner of Reverie Estates. Also, I think you may be confused about the difference between libel and slander. Your accusations of slander refer to spoken word, not printed text that appears in comments section of a website. You must also prove damages in a libel case. No judge in their right mind would award damages based on comments from an article. You have falsely attributed comments to me made on a website called YELP. I have never visited this website and have never posted anything on this website. This false accusation would further hurt any potential charge of libel. I stand by my comments of your business decision. If you had any backbone, you would terminate the lease of 111 Cakery based on their discrimination of gay couples. I find it troubling that you would characterize my comments as slanderous. Your commercial support of equality is a two faced scheme. While you publicly support an end to discrimination, behind the scenes you are more than willing to stuff your wallet with those who support discrimination. I am sorry if you feel these comments cast dispersions on you in a personal manner. I disagree with your business practices and will continue to voice my opinion.