Gideon’s Bakehouse Owner Shares Follow-Up Statement Responding to Recent Claims of Toxic & Dirty Workplace

Brit Tuttle

gideons-bakehouse-august

Gideon’s Bakehouse Owner Shares Follow-Up Statement Responding to Recent Claims of Toxic & Dirty Workplace

Following his statement last week, Steve Lewis, owner and creator of Gideon’s Bakehouse, has shared another follow-up statement.

Gideon’s Bakehouse Owner Shares Follow-Up Statement

The exterior of Gideon's Bakehouse at Disney Springs, a brick building with black metal awning and dark wooden double doors.

The statement was shared via an eight-slide carousel post on the official Gideon’s Bakehouse Instagram account on May 21, 2024. A previous statement was shared by Gideon’s Bakehouse addressing the claims on May 14, 2024.

Read the full, new statement in text form:

Hi! Me again. It’s been quite a week. It took me a while to make this post. First, I needed to make sure my team was ok. Second, I needed to speak with a clear head. Admittedly, I’ve been mad. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been numb. I don’t want to talk to you from that place. I only know how to be authentic with you, and I needed time to collect myself. This is not a company post. Gideon’s has never acted like a traditional business. It’s a little personal project I started alone, born from the grief of heartache. For me, Gideon’s Bakehouse feels like you’ve come to my home, and I’ve made something just for you… only now I have 180 people in the kitchen helping out.

For anyone wondering what I’m talking about, the brief: Someone hiding behind the shield of anonymity created a social media account making a laundry list of accusations about the Flagship Gideon’s shop, ranging from misleading to blatantly false to simply petty. It’s important to note: This person does not work for Gideon’s and is not representative of my crew. Every good store discusses improvements, and no one on the Gideon’s team does it through personal attacks and drama. While most of you saw through the claims very quickly, helping to deescalate things, I’d still like to briefly address a few topics.

Pay: If you’re not sitting in front of us accepting a position, it’s NYB [sic “not your business”]. As for the wage/tipping controversy, this is an industry conversation, not a Gideon’s conversation. Our approach is incredibly standard, though it consistently benefits my staff more than most jobs because we’re fortunate enough to have a full line, and then some, from open to close every day 365.

Health & Safety: We’ve passed every single inspection since day one. There is no debate anyone can resonably have here. Not to mention, you can see the store yourself. Both locations are almost completely visible to the public.

LGBTQ+ Support: As the son of a beautiful gay parent, accusations of discrimination are not just a colossal no, but the quickest tell that the claims weren’t coming from an honest place. There is none of this in my house, now or ever, full stop. Much of our staff is proudly part of the community, and we have their backs. We’ve celebratred Pride weekly for years, even when you know how I feel about color, but representation is fundamental.

Manager Slurs: This was a false personal attack and outright lie that hurt someone with a good, hard-earned reputation. It’s appalling, and I sincerely apologize to this manager. You and your family didn’t deserve to read such a thing.

The CEO Fat Cat: I want to bring this up because it’s a part of Gideon’s culture and a conversation I have with each person in every hiring interview. I am not a modern-day capitalist, meaning I don’t believe in squeezing to the top. We need to stay healthy, of course, but Gideon’s wasn’t created for enrichment. I won’t cut labor by automating production. Everything is handmade from scratch. I refuse to ship or deliver, prioritizing the in-person experience. I declined all offers to open more locations. Franchises aren’t my thing. We’re a proud part of Central Florida. We exist to create art and build community.

I understand the default belief that companies are greedy. However, we’re still just a local business trying to do our best, and our actions don’t support this narrative. I opened Gideon’s super broke in 2016. Since then, I’ve never increased my salary or taken a bonus. Earnings are invested in new and secret things that open the door for even more growth and opportunity within my team. Those are my/our values and, in my opinion, how businesses should act. Do I drive a Lamborghini? No, and wouldn’t want to. Do I have designer cats? No, they’re just really cool looking, so don’t be jelly.

Working for the G AKA the Real Culture: Every person who works in the store sknows that I only have three job requirements. Quality Control. Keep the Store Handsome. Treat Everyone Like Family and Friends. That last one works toward guests and each other. I do not hire salespeople. There are no scripts. There are no metrics you must achieve. I don’t need my team to talk about Gideon’s. I want them to talk about X-men 97 (killer), favorite local restaurants, and sharing pet photos. I want guests and my crew to get to know each other. That’s the job — period. Everyone on our team hears this directly from my mouth. I trust each individual I hire to bring those ideals to their workplace, and you know our crew. They’re incredible. They are asked to care about the guest. Care about each other. Care about themselves. No one of those asks is more important than the other. That’s how we treat each other, from top to bottom.

Thanks for letting me say some things. Gideon’s isn’t perfect — nothing is. But wow, do we really try. Doing the right thing is important on all levels of what we do. And in talking to so many of my peers this week, I’m not the only one. I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else. We have a community too large for my tiny brain to process, so we made it through an attack like this. Not every small business is in such a position, and that frightens me.

My love and praise go to my teams. I’m sorry we had to go through this together, but we’ll be all the better for it. End Market 4Ever! The Kitchen Crew works miracles, from Cookie toppers to Bakers! Gideon’s at Disney Springs brings the magic every day! How about the smooth stylings of the Merch Team! How about the madness of our Art Department of one?! And my Leadership Team, thank you for holding it all together, not just today but always. I’m a rambling pot of half-baked ideas without you.

Earlier this month, a collective of anonymous Gideon’s Bakehouse employees calling themselves the Ghosts of Gideon’s came forward with reports of dangerous and dirty working conditions, which were shared with WDWNT in an exclusive interview. The group also created an Instagram account and shared a letter of demands describing changes they sought in the workplace.

Among their complaints is that employees at Gideon’s are paid $8.98 per hour plus tips, but a recent policy change prohibits the team from asking for tips or publicly displaying a tip jar. The Ghosts of Gideon’s also stated that upper management uses discriminatory language and slurs, the crew is forced to work outdoors in the Florida heat and inclement weather while dressed in all-black attire and long pants, alleged an unsanitary kitchen, and that there is no space for a wheelchair to go behind the store’s counter.

A reporter's hand holding a chocolate chip cookie outside, with the exterior of Gideon's Bakehouse out of focus in the background.

The most recent post from Ghosts of Gideon’s was on May 14, 2024, and announced that the Ghosts were in the process of organizing with UNITEHERE! Local 362. Alongside their post, the Ghosts shared that comments and messaging would be turned off, and the account would no longer be monitored.

We’ve won.

Thanks to your incredible response, advocation, and care we are proud to announce that the workers of Gideon’s Bakehouse are now in the process of organizing with UNITEHERE! Local 362.

Through your support we have brought national attention to unsafe and unfair working conditions, and through the union we will now have a contract that demands fair pay, safe conditions, and fair conditions for all.

For now, we have completed our media interviews, and are turning off comments and messages, as our work has been done.

We will continue to update you, as needed, on the progress of unionizing, and the positive changes as they begin to rollout at the Bakehouse.

Thank you all, truly, for the love and support you’ve shown to us.

Once again, you have confirmed that, we, the workers, are the secret ingredient in America’s favorite cookie.

#StrongerTogether

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