Featured photo: The interior of Union Coffee from 2019 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)
Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that Daniel Davidson was formerly the co-owner of Union Coffee. He was instead, a manager.
In 2019, Triad City Beat published a story about Union Coffee, a hip coffee shop that had just opened in downtown Greensboro off of Friendly Avenue. With white walls, pourover coffee options and a minimal aesthetic, the business appeared to be the city’s first real specialty coffee option, perfect for those who longed for carefully crafted cortados and espresso shots that were readily available in larger cities.
But with some digging, TCB uncovered the coffee shop’s connection to United City Greensboro, a local church that was part of the Wesleyan denomination which espouses a conservative worldview, which means being anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality and anti-transgender.
At the time, Union Coffee was owned Spencer Loman, who worked as the lead pastor of United City Greensboro, and managed by Daniel Davidson.
Now, more than four years later, Davidson is the sole owner of Union Coffee; he says that the business is no longer tied to the church or to Loman in any capacity.
“As of 2022, Union Coffee stands completely independent of any ties or affiliations with the prior ownership institution/persons you are inquiring about,” Davidson said in a recent email to TCB. “In 2022, I, (Daniel Davidson,) acquired Union Coffee outright from its previous owners, solidifying our autonomy both personally and as a company. Union Coffee is now operating entirely independently.”
A search on the state’s Secretary of Business website confirms this.According to state records, Union Coffee Company, LLC was dissolved in April 2022. Now, the business’ address, 216 W. Friendly Ave., is listed under VPE Ventures LLC which was incorporated in March 2022 and is owned by Davidson alone.
When TCB ran its story in 2019, a few patrons of the coffee shop who weren’t aware of the connection between the business and the church were disappointed to hear that the hip space was, among many other controversial positions, anti-LGBTQ+.
But in an email to TCB, Davidson stated that Union Coffee is now a “dedicated safe space” that “embrace[s] and support[s] the LGBTQ+ community.”
“Instances of further marginalization impacting this community deeply saddens us,” Davidson wrote. “Our position on this matter is steadfast and unyielding: we unequivocally adhere to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any form of hatred, and our dedication to fostering an environment where every individual can participate without the burden of discrimination is resolute.”
In the past several years within the US, increasing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has been on the rise, spurred on by discriminatory legislation, restrictive educational policies and fearmongering campaigns by political candidates.
According to the Trevor Project’s 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, 41 percent of young LGBTQ people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and young people who are transgender, nonbinary and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers. Nearly a third of polltakers said that their mental health was poor most of the time or always, attributing this to anti-LGBTQ+ policies and legislation.
As a so-called “third place,” Davidson stated that he wants Union Coffee as a whole to “contribute to the creation of an environment where diversity is embraced and every person feels a genuine sense of belonging.”
“I want to be unambiguously forthright: the historical narrative tied to Union Coffee does not converge with, nor is it in harmony with current ownership, staff, or company, nor does it mirror in any capacity the daily experiences that we diligently craft for our cherished patrons,” Davidson continued.
The same sense of creating community mirrors the atmosphere that Davidson and his wife, Abigail Davidson, Abby Clayton and WIlliam Clayton seek to create at the Abbey, a taphouse that opened in downtown Greensboro last summer. The business, which is owned by Abigail and Abby, is a separate venture from Union and has never had any associations with Spencer Loman or United City Greensboro, Davidson said.
In a separate statement, Abby Clayton told TCB that the Abbey is a “majority woman-owned business that is truly open and welcoming to all.”
Clayton pointed out that “LGBTQ+ Friendly” is even listed as a “feature” on the business’s Google page.
Given Union Coffee’s past connections with the church, Davidson said that the business is in the midst of a rebranding effort. They’ve changed their name from Union Coffee Co. to just Union Coffee and their website has undergone a design change.
“We have been actively working behind the scenes on a comprehensive rebranding effort that aims to accurately reflect our heartbeat, team, culture, and patron experience, as well as reinforce our above stated commitment to our community, our value in diversity, and the enrichment of our city,” Davidson said.
Learn more about Union Coffee at unioncoffeecogso.com. Follow them on Instagram at @unioncoffeenc. Learn more about The Abbey at theabbeytaphouse.com and on Instagram at @theabbeytaphouse.
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