Former Navy SEAL and wife temporarily shut down coffee shops so they can focus on helping people in need

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HAVERHILL, MA – Civil unrest. Looting. Riots. Beatings. Murder. Politicians stripping our Constitutional rights. Lock-downs. Quarantine. Pandemic. Officer down. These are keywords that we write about and are dominating news cycles, and it is exhausting.  

So, it brings us great pleasure to share with you an upbeat story. A story not of rioting and burning buildings, but a story of putting others before self, of seeing a need in your community and meeting it. 

For long-time readers of Law Enforcement Today, you undoubtedly know the name Battle Grounds Coffee, whose owners have long been friends to many here at LET.  

In 2015, Dana and Salvatore DeFranco were on a mission to find a cafe that was accountable; a place that took pride in what they served. This task turned out to be more difficult than they had anticipated.

Never ones to accept failure, Salvatore and Dana set out to create something that did not exist. A cafe that would transform the community in which it resided. A

place where ideas would be born and businesses would be built. A place for entrepreneurs, and artists. A place where people could relax and create. A place for a cappuccino, and a glass of wine. A place that truly embodied the American spirit.

Sal is a former Navy SEAL. Dana is a licensed Occupational Therapist. I think that would lead one to believe that they both know a little about selfless service. Dana left full-time therapy in 2016 to assist Sal with running Battle Grounds. 

Fast forward to 2020. Sal and Dana were operating two store front cafes, one in Haverhill, the other 8 miles away in Lawrence, and managing their online store.

Insert the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local hospitals began to be inundated with COVID cases, overwhelming the already short staffs. Dana had been working part-time as a therapist as time allowed. But when the health crisis in their community started, Dana knew what she had to do.

They closed the stores and Dana went back to work at one of the local hospitals, where she is currently working 7 days per week.

Sal still works to keep Battle Grounds up and running, primarily through their online store, which I personally encourage you to visit. I can tell you from experience…they serve a great cup of coffee…even if you grind and brew it at home. 

“When all this happened, we had to shift fire,” Dana said of the decision to go back to the hospital. “We closed so we could help do what was best for our community.”

But it must have been hard to walk away, even if temporarily, from the dream they had been working to complete. 

“There really wasn’t a decision to be made. We saw a need, and we did what we could to help meet that need,” she said. 

As I have watched the news reports praising the “front line” workers in this pandemic, I have seen nurses, doctors, paramedics, cops and firefighters.

I hadn’t see too many occupational therapists. So I had to ask how she got plugged in meeting the needs of patients as part of the effort to combat COVID-19. 

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

Dana immediately got plugged in working in an adult psychiatric unit. 

As she explained it: 

“This pandemic has created a situation that everyone has to adjust to, and it hasn’t been easy for everyone. There are people who are having major difficulties in making the adjustments necessary.

Whether a patient has schizophrenic or bi-polar tendencies, or they are dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, it is hard for many from the standpoint of mental health.

Many have lost jobs or are now stuck at home and may be in an abusive relationship. In a lot of instances, they have no access to their regular healthcare providers, so they come see us.” 

And that is where Dana comes in. She is there to assist the members of her community in trying to find ways to adjust and cope with the “new normal.”

See, people who have a heart to serve, they are willing to sacrifice so many things to help others.

Whether that is a cop, a member of the military, a firefighter, an EMT or any one of the legions of healthcare workers, they give up time with their spouses and children. They work long hours, rarely having time for their self.

Sometimes, they even have to put press pause on their dreams, hoping to one day hit play again. 

Why do they do it? Because, that’s how they are wired. Others before self. They stand in the gap. 

They did so prior to COVID. They are doing it during our current level of chaos. They will continue to do it, long after COVID is over. Their hearts are centered in serving others. It brings them joy. 

And as a word of encouragement to their patrons and anyone who walks past their shop, they have a hand-stitched flag hanging behind a hand-written message that says: 

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

Speaking of serving prior to COVID, you may remember the issues last year where a handful of baristas at a large, Seattle-based coffee company were taking verbal and written shots at cops, calling them pigs and telling them to leave stores because the sight of them in uniform was making other guests uncomfortable.  

Here was the story we brought you on Sal and Dana’s epic response.  

Another day, another attack on police from a Starbucks employee.

The company, which just last year shut down more than 8,000 locations for a day to teach their employees what police brutality looks like, finds itself on the defense again today.

This, after a Kiefer police officer with the Green Country Police Department said he received his drinks with the word “PIG” written on the cups.

Starbucks Pig

Kiefer Police Chief Johnny O’Mara spoke to the local media about it.

According to the chief, one of his officers who was working Thanksgiving went to the Glenpool Starbucks to get coffee for dispatchers who were also having to work the holiday. 

He said each of the five cups the officer received had the “pig” label.

“This is what he gets for being nice,” O’Mara said in a Facebook post.

He included a picture of one of the cups.

“What irks me is the absolute and total disrespect for a police officer who, instead of being home with family and enjoying a meal and a football game, is patrolling his little town,” the chief said.

He said it’s part of a bigger picture. 

“This cup of coffee for a ‘pig’ is just another little flag. It’s another tiny symptom and a nearly indiscernible shout from a contemptuous, roaring and riotous segment of a misanthropic society that vilifies those who stand for what’s right and glorifies the very people who would usher in the destruction of the social fabric. It’s another tiny pinprick into the heart of men and women who are asking themselves more often: ‘Why am I doing this?'”

Wondering what the stores response was when O’Mara called them?  They said they would replace the coffee with a corrected label.

Later in the day on Thanksgiving, the employee who made the labels called the officer and apologized, saying it was meant to be a joke between her and another co-worker.

“Replace the coffees with the corrected labels?  THAT is their apology?” questioned Salvatore DeFranco, former Navy SEAL. 

Sal and his wife Dana own Battle Grounds Coffee, a chain based out of Massachusetts.

“This is ridiculous.  Your employees insult law enforcement across the country on yet another holiday that they’ve sacrificed time with their families to keep YOUR employees safe – and this is the best you can do?”

Sal and Dana were so upset when they heard what had happened that they took a break from their own Thanksgiving celebrations and drove to one of their locations.  That’s where they packed up a special care package to send to the Green County Police Department.

“We might serve our country in different ways, but these are still my brothers. I’ll stand by their side and show them what appreciation looks like.”

Earlier this year, Sal and Dana from Battle Grounds Coffee ended up in the national headlines for what they did to back an Arizona police department.

Officers from that department were kicked out of a Starbucks because the sight of them triggered a customer into a meltdown.

Battle Grounds Coffee, as a response, pledged to donate 50% of profits from online sales in July to the families of fallen officers through Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.).  Here’s what happened then:

“We woke up this morning and, well, WOW.  We were absolutely BURIED in emails and messages and were completely humbled.”

Those were the words of former Navy SEAL Salvatore DeFranco.  He and his wife, Dana, own Battle Grounds Coffee.  It’s a chain of coffee shops and an online store that sells some of the best joe we’ve ever had.

Perhaps it’s because it tastes so much like, well, America.

First – the back story.

Salvatore and Dana DeFranco were getting ready to open the doors of Battle Grounds coffee in Massachusetts on that Saturday in July when they heard the latest news out of a Starbucks in Arizona. They were beyond angry.

Salvatore and Dana DeFranco of Battle Grounds Coffee
Salvatore and Dana DeFranco of Battle Grounds Coffee

 

Lest you missed it – here’s what happened.

Police enjoying a cup of coffee were kicked out of a Starbucks coffee shop in Tempe, Arizona on the Fourth of July.

Why?  Because a customer complained they “did not feel safe” with the cops present, according to reports.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and vets called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing their untold stories. Click to check it out.

Colorado woman uses red flag law against officer who shot and killed her knife-wielding son

 

The five officers were sipping coffee at the Starbucks before their shift started.  That’s when a barista asked them to move out of the complaining customer’s line of sight or else leave.

Battle Grounds Coffee

 

Sal is a former Navy SEAL. He and his wife, Dana, run a couple of Battle Grounds coffee locations in Massachusetts.  They have a strong online presence and are finalizing plans to open a half dozen more locations in the near future.  They were outraged over the news.

“These are men and women who serve and protect our communities every single day.  For someone to say they didn’t feel safe around them is ludicrous,” said Sal.

Dana, who oversees the daily operations at Battle Grounds Coffee, said the core problem was how the store handled it.

“You’re going to kick out five protectors because you have one person who can’t handle reality? Shame on that store.  If that happened in our business, not a single one of those officers would have had a bill… and we would have kicked out the complainer,” said Dana.

Battle Grounds Salvatore and Dana DeFranco
Battle Grounds Salvatore and Dana DeFranco

Sal pointed out the hypocrisy of Starbucks.

“In 2018, two black men who weren’t paying customers were arrested for trespassing after they refused to leave a Starbucks.  Starbucks turned around and closed some 8,000 locations for a business day to conduct ‘racial bias training’.  When does Starbucks plan on closing for a day to train their employees to respect law enforcement and our veterans?”

Dana expanded upon the value system of their company.

“Up until now, we espoused total inclusivity.  We would always welcome ANY paying customer, regardless of their race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion or profession,” said Dana.  “But this story made us rethink that.  From here on out, there’s personality type we do NOT want coming into our store – jerks.”

Dana and Sal were so upset over the news that they decided to do something about it.  For the entire month of July, they’re donating 50% of profits from ALL of their online sales to Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), an organization that supports the families of fallen officers.

“These men and women put on a uniform every single day and go into the community to protect us,” Dana said.  “We’re losing far too many of them.  Those are men and women losing their spouses… kids losing their parents… parents losing their kids.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.  And while some ‘coffee chains’ might not respect that, at Battle Grounds Coffee, we do.”

The news went absolutely viral, with emails along with Facebook and Instagram messages flooding in.  So did the orders.  And all of those orders mean money that will end up helping some incredible people.

Here are some of our favorite messages they received:

Joe D. sent this message:

“I just wanted to say I appreciate your respect towards law enforcement and wanted to say thank you for your service . I’ve been a Chicago Police Officer for 20 years. The shit that’s going on in his country is making me sick. I read your article about how your donating 50% of proceeds in July to Cops . You are a true Patriot and a Hero in my book. God Bless you and good luck with your coffee business. Open one up in Chicago! Do you ship to Chicago just wondering? Stay Safe and MAGA !”

An officer who was particularly touched by the move by Battle Grounds sent this message:

“Dear Sal,

 I want to thank you for speaking out and backing my brothers and sisters in blue. I have been a law enforcement officer for the past 16 years and I love it. Over the past 6 years though, it has been very tough. I’ve lost four brothers in blue in the line of duty. Two of my brothers I was close friends with. I read where you are donating 50% of your upcoming sales to the families of the fallen. I thank you sir for doing that. Thank you for your service to this great country.”

Tom from Maryland said:

First thank you sir for your service to our country.  Second, my thanks to you and your wife for your support for the families of deceased law enforcement officers.  I’m retired law enforcement (33 years) in Maryland, and I’ve seen the change in society’s view of the police.  It’s been very ugly, but folks such as you make the job worth it.  Thank you for all you have done for our country and the blue.

Juan sent in this message on Instagram:

Thank you, thank you for standing up for my brothers and sisters, this means so much to us and just shows that together, we can do and help anyone.  I have been a C.O.P.S. volunteer for over 15 years after losing 3 friends in the line of duty.  It has not been easy, but with support like this, we can help so many… you are awesome and God bless you.

Kevin wrote in through Instagram as well:

I wish we had one of your shops here in Texas.  I am going to check my finances and if able, am going to go out and buy a handful of Dunkin Donuts gift cards and hand them out in front of a local Starbucks. They (either directly, or through a complete lack of training and “hands on” with their employees) have done too many crappy things to people in the name of “social justice” and I am DONE with them.

Dana said the show of support just reinforces their “why”.

“We wanted Battle Grounds to not just be a coffee shop, but to be a home.  It’s a home for EVERYONE, no matter what they do for work or who they are as an individual.  But we owe a debt of gratitude to those who keep us safe so that we can create this incredible community.”

Sadly, across the country, there are many people who don’t appreciate that sense of security and safety.  People who are angered at the sight of people who put on a uniform to keep them safe.  Individuals who feel as if they are entitled to a “safe space” but believe it will be protected by… their own feelings.

Sal said it’s time Americans toughen up.

“When I was a Navy SEAL, we learned about brotherhood.  We learned about service.  We learned about dedication.  We learned about TOUGHNESS,” said Sal.  “Men before us… and men and women today… run into the fight to protect those who can’t protect themselves.  And you’re going to be triggered by the sight of a protector?  Give me a break.  Get over yourself.”

Sal nailed the concept of others before yourself. 

He and Dana have continued to live that out, day after day. I am proud to say that I know both of these selfless people (as much as you can know someone through phone conversations), and I support their efforts and cannot wait for them to open a store in Texas. I will be a frequent customer. 

 


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