Velvet Cream, a long-time culinary staple of Hernando, has reopened after temporarily closing due to threats received following an incident where store owner, Tommy Flinn confronted an African American police officer taking an accident report. Backlash was swift and fierce on social media following the incident, and Flinn has since resigned. His son, Trey Flinn has taken on the helm.
Trey, who has worked at his family’s restaurant for 21 years, said he’s uncomfortable with becoming the public face of the business.
“I'm not a very public person,” Trey said. “I'm not really suited towards that, but that is something I have to do.”
A regular customer of Velvet Cream, Tammi Lawrence, was in the restaurant’s parking lot on May 31 when her car was hit by a truck. Hernando police officer Hosie Porter was there taking her statement, when an enraged Tommy Flinn came outside
“He had a clipboard in his hand, and he was kind of throwing his hands up, and he was screaming,” Lawrence told WREG. “He’s coming there, and he said, ‘Get off my property. I demand that you get off my property.’ And I’m looking, like, ‘Is he talking to me?’ and he was talking to officer Porter.”
Trey claims his father did not see the wrecked vehicle when he came outside and confronted Officer Porter.
Lawrence’s Facebook post about the incident has over 1,200 likes and 600 comments. Velvet Cream temporarily closed last Thursday after the restaurant received at least 10 death threats over the phone and Facebook Messenger. The Hernando Police Department stationed an officer at the restaurant over the weekend.
Trey Flinn thinks the political climate following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and stress relatd to the Coronavirus pandemic fueled the violent reactions.
I think people need an outlet. And unfortunately they found one,” Trey said.
The Flinn family had an emergency meeting following the incident and decided Tommy needed to step down.
“The whole family sits around and decides that he doesn't need to be here anymore. That's pretty messy,” Trey said. “I think that's the biggest issue is he has a hot head and it's not appropriate for here.”
Trey said his father, age 64, still wants to be involved with the restaurant, but that can’t happen until he handles his anger issues. He also maintains that his father's outburst was motivated by his temper, not racism.
Tommy Flinn has been in a depressive state since the incident, according to Trey. This is due to the social media comments, many of which contain allegations Trey says are unfounded.
“Reading stuff like that, it's like a drug,” Trey said. “Once you start, you can't stop.”
The Flinn family has reached out to try and offer Officer Porter an apology, but have not yet been able to reach him. The only statement Porter has made on the incident was to a group of citizens who gathered outside the police department to offer support following the incident.
“It ain’t about me,” Porter said. “I ain’t looking for no ‘A’ for the day just for me doing my job. I just do it for the citizens of Hernando.”
Velvet Cream reopened on Monday and plans to roll out policy changes in the coming weeks. The first is retraining employees for kinder customer service.
Since reopening, the restaurant has had many less customers than it did only a few weeks ago. As it’s primarily a drive-thru business, it has not been hit as hard as other local businesses due to COVID-19.
Like all things, it takes time to recover,” Trey said. “I've seen worse. I've seen better, but we’ll be here until it does.”