Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
On Monday, Jan. 9, the City of Huntington relaunched its “Open to All” campaign which is aimed at promoting diversity and acceptance in the Huntington community.
Businesses and organizations who take the Open to All Pledge promise to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all employees, visitors, customers, vendors, and clients, regardless of race, religion, ancestry, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or income status.
The campaign was originally launched in February of 2016 and may have as many as 150 participating businesses (exact numbers are currently unknown).
The first business to take the pledge was River and Rail Bakery at the corner of Eleventh Street and Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
Located in the main building at Heritage Station, River and Rail first opened in March of 2011 as part of the redevelopment of the historic B&O Railroad Depot.
“I just came into this building, and I saw the space, and I had this vision of what it would become,” said Kim Baker, owner of River and Rail Bakery. “I was standing in an old train station, looking out the windows at the river, and the name ‘River and Rail’ just came to me.”
River and Rail has since grown into a full café, serving homemade soups, sandwiches, pastries, and locally roasted coffee. While still functioning as a bakery, Baker said the majority of the bread they make now is used in their sandwiches.
The decision to start offering a full menu was an easy one according to Baker. “Where this space used to be a restaurant, we had a lot of people coming in all the time thinking it was still a restaurant. So we gradually started offering a few soups and salads and then eventually it grew into the menu we have now.”
Note: the current menu at River and Rail includes the Best Grilled Cheese in West Virginia according to Yelp and Buzzfeed.
In 2016, Baker was approached by the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee about becoming a member of the Open to All campaign. That was another easy decision for Baker. “We’ve always been open to all,” Baker said. “Even before the Open to All campaign, we had a diversity sticker in our window. And we already had a very inclusive vibe about the way we operate, so when they started talking about it, I didn’t hesitate. It’s a no-brainer to me.”
To commemorate River and Rail being the first business to become a member of the Open to All campaign, there will be a “Cash Mob” there on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Attendees are invited to come and spend at least $5 to support local business.
River and Rail is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and is located in the main building at Heritage Station.
Kim Baker was invited to speak at the Open to All relaunch in City Hall on Monday. The following are her remarks. Transcript below the link.
— Downtown Huntington (@DowntownHWV) January 8, 2018
“First, let me express my gratitude to Mayor Williams and Huntington’s Diversity and LGBT Advisory committees for inviting me to speak today as the Open To All Campaign re-launches, embracing a wider perspective.
River and Rail has been Open to All since I first unlocked the door in 2011. In March of 2016, I was privileged to be the first business to place an Open To All sticker on my cafe entrance.
I feed people. I love people. I help people. All people. People form a happier and richer community when they are fed, loved, understood, and accepted.
The River & Rail team (which is itself a diverse group) nourishes all who come in with a need for the products and services we offer, and we frequently throw in hugs and high fives. We sincerely want to know how our customers are, because they are the reason we are in this enterprise.
We believe that to build a strong community, we must recognize all its aspects, and respect individual differences.
We serve the impoverished, the wealthy, the addicted, the recovering, the sick, the dying, the healthy, the differently-abled, the young, and the young at heart. We serve all political parties, races, religions, sexual orientations, and genders. We recognize that people exist on spectrums, not in boxes.
Hate weakens our society, and degrades joy & prosperity. The richest lives are those full of compassion, cooperation, tolerance, and gratitude. Thank you again, for the opportunity to take part in this campaign. When we work together, we all win, and Huntington thrives.”