Texas Bookstore Owner Shares Letter Received From Anti-Mask Customer

A Texas bookstore owner has shared the letter he received from a customer who was turned away for not wearing a mask.

The Painted Porch is located in Bastrop County in Texas, where the state's mask mandate was lifted in March. Some businesses however have chosen to continue with their mask policies. With just 43.7 percent of Bastrop County currently fully vaccinated, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, The Painted Porch owner Ryan Holiday chose to ask customers to still wear a mask.

"The policy is a wonderful filter. People who are vaccinated or have taken the pandemic seriously do not care. It's precisely the people you'd want to wear a mask who get upset, so when they storm off, all I feel is relief. They probably weren't going to buy anything anyway," said Holiday, who has volunteered at vaccination centers during the pandemic.

Holiday posted the letter to his Twitter account on July 3, writing: "A fun letter from a customer at The Painted Porch."

"You rarely receive physical letters these days, so I was surprised to get anything at all. You hope if someone is going to take the time to write a letter, it's because they have something nice to say," he told Newsweek.

The letter itself is dated June 25, and is apparently written by an anonymous 56-year-old woman who prefaced by stating that she has a Masters degree in library and information science, and did not vote Trump. "I am writing to let you know that yesterday I was disappointed to leave your bookstore because of your mask requirement," she began.

After clarifying her support for local businesses and bookstores, she wrote: "I can no longer tolerate the theater that is 'the mask'." The customer denied the effectiveness of masks, claiming that only N95 masks are "effective at stopping a virus," which still "is not 100% effective." The CDC however recommends, "non-valved multi-layer cloth masks, to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2," and found that, "cloth masks in some studies perform on par with surgical masks as barriers for source control."

The woman went on to explain her views that the pandemic "is being used as a political took to divide and polarize people, families and communities [...]The general population benevolent, kind hearted and caring people is being purposefully manipulated in order to destabilize society, shutter local economies and small businesses such as your own, eliminate access to broad and sweeping ranges of legitimate information, and to upend life as we know it," she wrote.

"Today when I chose to leave your store I felt alienated, isolated and deeply saddened to be turned away. As I was turned away, so was a potential referral, repeat customer and a member of your community. I have lost family to COVID, one who has died and those who have been terrorized into complete isolation because of manipulative untruths and propaganda pushed upon us for over a year," she added. The woman then wrote that her son had fallen into a depression over the past year, turning to drugs as a coping mechanism.

Towards the end of the letter, the customer compared the split between people over masks and vaccines to the Jim Crow laws, writing: "I found your book display ironic, because before long, if we allow this bizarre agenda to manifest into complete fruition, there will be a new form of 'separate but equal,' a new form of segregation, a new version of 'Jim Crow'."

"We have two young children who cannot be vaccinated yet. That's why we have a mask policy, full-stop, and the idea that anyone would have a problem with that in the middle of a deadly pandemic is preposterous," Holiday told Newsweek.

"We also care about our employees and their families and everyone in this community, We would feel absolutely terrible if anyone contracted COVID-19 in our store, when it is so easily preventable by such a simple policy. Does it cost us some business? Maybe a little. But generally, people who love books are good people and they are also smart! So 99.9 percent of people don't care."

A fun letter from a customer at The Painted Porch. pic.twitter.com/ZsFP3R6WHW

— Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) July 3, 2021

After sharing the letter to Twitter, Holiday was flooded with the opinions of others and divided users at the same time. Some were in agreement with Holiday, with one person writing: "I agree with her in some respects but I also think if a business chooses to require masks then wear it and shut up. It's not oppressive, it's not dividing, it's a common courtesy. Even if it helps by only 1% then it's worth it not to cause harm to each other."

Others felt the mask policy of the bookstore was unnecessary, like this commenter who said: "I loved your book store despite the pretty dumb mask requirement. You and the woke Apple store are the last holdouts of that kind of thinking. While I was there, I saw two sets of customers leave when told they had to wear a mask."

Holiday however defended his choice online to continue asking customers to wear facemasks, writing that it's, "not even a question for me of what I'd prefer, keeping my kids and my employees safe or losing (the worst kind of) customers in a county that is barely 40% vaccinated."

Outside view of The Painted Porch store
Outside view of The Painted Porch. Image courtesy of Ryan Holiday. Ryan Holiday

Update 7/5/21, 11:35 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Ryan Holiday.