Big City Coffee owner Sarah Fendley is shocked to find herself in the middle of a national controversy over the name of a football team.
In July, a judge canceled the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark in response to decades of opposition by Native American groups that find the team’s name offensive.
On Oct. 30, the Redskins filed an appeal using what The Washington Post dubbed “The Take Yo Panties Off Defense.” In the brief, the team questioned the government’s right to pull its “offensive” trademark while letting others — pornography businesses and ones that use sexy, derogatory or otherwise risque names — exist.
Listed right there in the middle of it all is Big City’s Big Titty Blend coffee, a product that raises funds for breast cancer awareness, education and early detection.
“I don’t know why they picked us,” Fendley said.
Reformed Whores, a country-comedy duo, also are named in Redskins’ suit.
Many of the businesses named are in the porn industry, but some are just legitimate businesses with a quirky sense of humor and irony, such as New Jersey’s Baked By a Negro Cookie Co. (Where Cookies and History Collide).
Its owner is African-American Rebecca Williams, who uses the fictitious character of Melanie Darkinboddy as the front for her small company.
Williams is a literature professor at Essex County College in Newark, and she loves to bake.
“I really just make cookies for friends and family,” she said.
But the company has a larger mission, she says, to introduce people to African-American literature and history.
“There are other groups that use the word ‘negro,’ such as the National Council of Negro Women,” Williams said. “So I went with that old-fashioned word.”
Boise’s Big City Coffee, 1416 W. Grove St., is a popular breakfast and lunch spot. It serves pastries, omelets, pancakes and other fare.
It’s ludicrous to now be lumped in with Take Yo Panties Off Clothing and SlutSeeker dating service, Fendley said.
We’re real people with a real story, and we’re trying to do something good.
Sarah Fendley, owner of Big City Coffee
Fendley started her nonprofit Joe Cans Coffee For a Cause six years ago when friend Stephanee Rowbury got breast cancer.
“I wanted to do something to cheer her up, and I wanted to take action, do something to fight back,” Fendley said.
So she drew the logo of the bra with a sharpie on a bag, took the name “Big Titty Blend” that she’s heard people sometimes play off of Big City, filled it with fair trade organic coffee and gave it to Rowbury.
“It cheered her up and made her feel special,” Fendley said.
The first year, they donated Big Titty Blend proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The next year, Fendley, who does CrossFit, started working with Barbells for Boobs, a nonprofit out of Costa Mesa, Calif., that emphasizes early detection and brings the athletic community together to fight the disease.
That was Rowbury’s third bout with the disease. She died in December 2012.
After she was gone, Fendley, along with Kelly Hendricks and Andrea Gates, officially founded Joe Cans. They raise funds year-round and they donated enough to pay for 175 mammograms through Barbells in 2015.
They have continued to raise a few eyebrows along the way. Because of the name, Fendley had difficulty selling it in the Boise Airport, where Big City has a second location, until she put Buy Idaho stickers over the “Titty.”
Though some find the name questionable, it’s actually part of a bigger movement of women culturally reclaiming negative terms about their bodies, in the same way Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” did in the 1990s. That play spurred the creation of VDay.org, a group that battles violence against women worldwide.
“I chose the name so that someone would stop and look,” Fendley said. “I really wanted to put my money and my time to do something good. Maybe the Redskins could start donating to a good cause.”
How this will play out remains to be seen. On Nov. 3, a reporter from Sports Illustrated interviewed Fendley, and the story continues to garner interest nationally.