Above Time Coffee Roasters LLC, a Bloomington-based coffee business run by controversial Schooner Creek Farm co-owner Sarah Dye, is facing criticism over alleged use of neo-Nazi imagery and language.
After Dye announced Above Time’s launch on Instagram and posted the business’s first tweet on May 9, commenters began questioning the business’s logo, language and policies. Dye did not respond to the IDS’s request for comment.
Dye has previously been accused of having ties to the now-disbanded white supremacist group Identity Evropa and has admitted to posting white supremacist ideology in an online chatroom. Identity Evropa, rebranded as the American Identity Movement before it disbanded in November 2020, reportedly aims to offer a less obvious version of white supremacy that appeals to younger Americans, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
When the group was active, Dye was allegedly well-connected with leaders, recruiters and extremists such as Nolan Brewer, who pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime charge May 21, 2019, for vandalizing and bringing homemade destructive weapons to an Indianapolis synagogue with the intent to burn it down.
Dye was also the center of a controversy surrounding the Bloomington Farmer’s Market in 2019. After she was removed from the Nashville Farmer’s Market for belonging to Identity Evropa, protests began at the Bloomington market to remove her, and the market was eventually shut down for two weeks out of fear of violence.
The business’s name, Above Time, has been accused of referring to the neo-Nazi book “The Lightning and the Sun,” which is dedicated to Adolf Hitler “as a tribute of unfailing love and loyalty.” The business’s logo depicts four coffee beans forming a cross, each with a jagged line and section darkened to form an “x”.
The cross in the middle of the icon is described by Günther Jikeli, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, as iconography between a swastika and an Iron Cross, which is a black “x” that has roots in Nazi Germany and Prussia. Both are commonly used by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups in the U.S.
Jikeli also said there was a resemblance between the jagged lines inside coffee beans in the logo and half of the SS bolts, which resemble an “s” shape or a lightning bolt and are another common white supremacist symbol. These three comparisons have been echoed by Internet commenters.
Mark Roseman, historian of modern Europe and professor of Jewish studies and Germanic studies, said he agreed with Jikeli’s interpretation. This kind of imagery is reminiscent of post-WWII efforts to evoke Nazi imagery without reproducing it, Roseman said.
“Like a good deal of neo-Nazi content on the web, it is both in your face but also coy, ready to hide if accused,” Roseman said. “But that does not mean that a thoughtful observer can be in any doubt about what is happening here.”
Above Time’s slogan, "for our people, by our people," has rung alarm bells for experts like Jikeli and Roseman, commenters and the Jewish community alike.
This kind of harmful language, Roseman said, suggests there are those who are not “our people.” Who isn’t welcome isn’t explicitly spelled out, but Roseman says it’s made clear that Jewish people are among those excluded due to the company’s policies towards kosher food.
In an Instagram post made June 13, Above Time said their coffee will not be kosher-certified. Kosher products are prepared according to traditional Jewish dietary restrictions, and a kosher-certified product promises the consumer that these considerations were followed throughout the preparation process, according to Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of IU’s Helene G. Simon Hillel Center.
Keeping kosher is technically required in the Torah, the Jewish holy book. However, Jewish people follow it for many reasons, Silberberg said.
“A lot of people today keep it because it’s a way to keep a Jewish home,” Silberberg said. “It’s a way to bring Judaism into your life.”
Above Time claims in the same post that kosher-certified food costs more, which Silberberg says is partially untrue. The cost to ensure an item is kosher is generally considered part of the production cost; however, the actual supervision and certification may cost a small fee.
Regardless, coffee beans are automatically kosher, according to Silberberg.
“I think she’s going out of her way to make a statement that’s anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish,” Silberberg said. “It’s not about cost. It wouldn’t cost her any more money.”
Above Time’s post cites the website The Kosher Question in regard to the extra cost of Kosher food. However, the site’s claims, as well as the app made by the same company, have been proven false.
The company claims their customers, who they refer to as “our people,” don’t need kosher-certified products and didn’t ask for it.
Jikeli describes this kind of language as a common strategy by white supremacists and neo-Nazis to mean that Jewish people aren’t welcome in an establishment. This language will be understood by anti-Semites, but remains implicit enough to claim this isn’t the intention, Jikeli said.
This controversy comes during a difficult year for the Bloomington Jewish community. Throughout December, multiple swastikas were seen painted across the city. In February, an anti-Semitic post surfaced on social media site Greek Rank.
Events like these remind people that hatred and bigotry are still present in the Bloomington community, according to Silberberg. She’s also grateful, though, for the outpouring of support after these events.
“It makes people sad, fearful, angry, hurt,” Silberberg said. “But I would say the silver lining is how many people have come forward to support our community this year.”
Local Bloomington residents have rallied against Above Time’s online presence. The business’s first tweet has 133 replies; nearly all of them comment on the imagery behind the business’s branding or they mock white supremacy.
One Indiana-based company has taken action in response to Above Time’s launch. Indianapolis Coffee Guide, a coffee blog dedicated to highlighting Indianapolis coffee shops, has partnered with Gravesco Pottery to create an “Anti Fascist Coffee Club” mug. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and a matching donation will be made to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.
These donations help, but Silberberg said the most important way to combat bigotry is by speaking out against it and denying it support.
“We also have the right and responsibility,” Silberberg said, “to be thinking about where we want to spend our money and who it is that we want to spend it with.”