An East Texas bakery is being inundated with orders, supportive messages and donations after revealing it faced backlash over its colorful cookies celebrating Pride Month.
The owners of Lufkin-based Confections unknowingly set off the chain of bittersweet events last Wednesday, when they posted a Facebook photo advertising their heart-shaped, rainbow-iced cookies and calling for "More LOVE" and "Less hate."
The following day, however, they reported the opposite: A post on the bakery's page said it had lost a "significant amount of followers" because of the cookies, and received a "very hateful message" canceling an order of five dozen cookies that had already been decorated.
Noting that an order that size is "big in our world," the owners told their Facebook followers that the cookies would be available for purchase in the shop for $3 each, and said they hoped the next day would be better.
Then they went viral.
Confections gained some 2,500 new social media followers, and received thousands of supportive Facebook comments and messages from people across the country and around the world.
Some of the public comments came from as far away as Washington state, Minnesota, New York, Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
"Love always wins, and unfortunately sometimes it takes hate to prove that," one message read. "We don't get rainbows or flowers without the rain."
"This story from the initial hate to the ending of so much love has had me in tears all day today," another wrote.
Many commenters either asked about shipping or promised to visit the bakery in person.
Some of those cookie orders and shipping inquiries came from drag superstar Alyssa Edwards and Brian Cuban, a prominent Dallas-based attorney and brother of billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
"We are overwhelmed by all the sweet words of support posted, messaged and emailed," reads an unsigned post from the bakery's Facebook page. "There are so many it may take us a while to get through them all. Tears of joy ran down my face as I read through them."
Bakery owners did not respond to multiple calls and emails from NPR.
Confections doesn't currently do any shipping. But locals flocked to the shop on Thursday, forming a line that snaked around the block.
The bakery said it had sold out of everything by mid-afternoon.
And it didn't take long for their shelves to empty out the next day, too.
In fact, they added, the last few customers of the day "put money on their credit card for us to donate because there was nothing left to purchase."
With those customers' permission, co-owner Miranda Dolder wrote on Facebook, they gave those donations directly to local animal rescues.
One of them was Wendy's Misfits Animal Rescue, an all-volunteer non-profit in Lufkin.
Zeata Rowe, a volunteer surgery coordinator at the rescue, told NPR over email that it had received $4,240 as of Friday.
That entire sum will be used to sponsor spay and neuter surgeries for pets in the county, Rowe said, adding that the last year has been especially tough for fundraising and the rescue is "terribly grateful" for the support.
"The kindness, generosity and support for the owners of Confections is touching ... and they turned around and shared it all with non profits ... a feel good story in every way," Rowe wrote.
Co-owner Dawn Cooley wrote in a post on Saturday that the small business hasn't gotten so much attention in its 11-year history.
"We (my sister and co-owner Miranda and our fabulous baker Felicia) are just so humbled and grateful and moved by this outpouring of love," she added.
The owners said over the weekend that based on customer feedback, they are working on a plan to donate cookie proceeds to local nursing homes and other charities, and hope to start a schedule for doing so after Father's Day.
Orders have continued to pour in this week, prompting the bakery to close at 3 p.m. local time daily in order to catch up on making dough and baking cookies.
The owners also started donating money to Lufkin High School's diversity club, which says it aims to promote acceptance and inclusion by supporting those who feel marginalized and offering programming, activities and scholarships for its members.
The owners added that they have more ideas and plans for how to pay the attention forward, but don't want to announce them preemptively.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, they praised locals as "the heroes of this story," and offered words of support and acceptance to "all of those round these parts frightened to be your true self."
"Somehow, our bakery has the world's attention," they added. "Let's shine it on our youth where we can assuage their fears. Help guide their way with kindness and care. We have this moment."