Martin’s potato rolls face boycott calls over landlord policy
But whether big or small, restaurant owners have been urged to drop their allegiance to Martin’s hugely popular products after recent reports showed the family behind the company are supporters, financially and otherwise, of Doug. Mastriano, the controversial Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.
In April, ahead of the Republican primaries in Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA reported that James Martin, executive chairman and former chairman of Martin’s, contributed $110,000 to Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign. A month later, Billy Penn, a news site associated with public radio station WHYY-FM, reported that the executive’s wife and daughter had also contributed to Mastriano’s campaign.
A first-time state senator and retired Army colonel, Mastriano won his primary in May, beating eight other candidates for the GOP nomination. Endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Mastriano embraced the baseless claims that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, including the important swing state of Pennsylvania, which Joe Biden narrowly won.
Mastriano was a leader in the attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. He helped commission an unauthorized audit of voting machines in rural Fulton County, according to reports from The Washington Post. He also reportedly urged other state lawmakers to reject Pennsylvania’s election results and name their own winner, a plan likely unconstitutional, according to the Post’s Amber Phillips.
Mastriano not only attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on January 6, 2021, but also reportedly spent thousands of dollars renting charter buses to take people to the rally, which ended with Trump supporters taking stormed the Capitol in what a House panel this week called an “attempted coup.” The uprising resulted in the deaths of five people. Mastriano said he never entered the Capitol or crossed police lines, although video detectives found evidence that seemed to suggest otherwise.
In February, the House committee investigating the insurrection subpoenaed Mastriano for an interview. He reportedly accepted and handed over documents.
Mastriano’s far-right politics go beyond denying the results of the presidential election. He supports a total ban on abortion, even when the woman’s life is in danger. He promoted baseless QAnon conspiracy theories. After the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Mastriano retweeted a video clip of himself comparing gun control to Nazism.
These and other policies and actions were more than enough to cause some to call for a boycott of Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, whose history dates back to Pennsylvania Dutch Country in 1955. Among prominent boycott advocates is the author and leader J Kenji Lopez-Alt.
“I will no longer buy Martin products, nor will I support any establishment that uses their buns until they change suppliers, and I urge you to do the same if you don’t want your money supporting this stuff,” López-Alt wrote on Instagram.
Martin’s did not respond to a request for comment, but on May 17, the day of the Pennsylvania primary, the company tweeted“Like our country as a whole, Martin’s company is made up of a diverse group of employees and shareholders, all of whom are free to support and vote for whomever they choose. As a company, Martin’s does not donate to any particular candidate or political party, but we encourage and celebrate the opportunity we all have to vote and participate in the electoral process.
López-Alt’s post generated over 25,000 likes and more than a few people said they would join the boycott, despite their love for Martin’s rolls. Among the apparent supporters was chef and activist Tom Colicchio, whose verified account left this message on López-Alt’s page: “I bought my last one last night.
When contacted by text message to confirm that he was the one who left the message, Colicchio replied, “That was not the case.” He did not respond to a call for further clarification.
López-Alt declined to comment further.
Soleil Ho, a restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported that some Bay Area chefs are already looking for substitutes for their Martin products.
The Post attempted to reach several chefs, pit masters and publicists for chains that, according to Martin’s site, buy from the wholesaler. Among those who did not return our calls or texts for comment: Aaron Franklin with Franklin Barbecue, Kevin Bludso with Bludso’s Bar & Cue, David Chang with Fuku, and media relations managers for Clyde’s Restaurant Group and the Hard Rock Cafe.
Their reluctance to talk could reflect a real business moral dilemma for operators. As one restaurateur explained anonymously because he was not authorized to speak: “I don’t think I’ve read a single thing that didn’t have nice things to say about the product. And yet I think there is a lot [of concern] of many people regarding that person’s personal political contributions.
Then the restaurateur summarizes the problem: “I don’t know how to make a good potato bread like that.”
Martin’s biggest roll buyer is Shake Shack, which has grown from a hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park to a multinational chain. The company promotes its values on its website. He even notes that the company has a score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for its support of the LGBTQ Plus community.
Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack, declined to comment, but a company spokesperson sent a statement to The Post:
“Shake Shack has always stood for equality, inclusion and belonging within our company – and we know these values are important to our guests and team members. Shake Shack does not make political donations, nor does the company endorse political donations from individuals. With respect to the actions of individuals associated with Martin’s Company and their personal political donations – these are the choices of those individuals and do not express the values of Shake Shack. We continue to be in active conversation with Martin’s to express our concern.