Emeryville Cornology under fire after witnesses attest use of racial slur by employee

Published On April 23, 2018 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Social Justice & Activism

Cornology, the gourmet popcorn shop at Bay Street, is under fire after witnesses attest the use of a racial slur by an employee following an alleged theft. The incident is leading to calls for a boycott of the establishment by some members of the public.

A public post on Facebook by a witness provided a description of the incident that quickly went viral (over 2,000 shares at the time this story was published): “This business owner just chased a group of young black kids out of Cornology yelling, ‘dont come back here NI**ERS!’”

Members of the public immediately responded with a large number of negative reviews on Cornology Emeryville’s Facebook and Yelp Pages with calls to ‘shut down’ the establishment.

A response by the Cornology Facebook admin acknowledged the incident, stating their response was “inappropriate,” admitting that inexcusable language was used, and asking for “forgiveness” from the community..

We acknowledge your rightful anger and want to extend our deepest apologies to our community and neighbors. Our response to being robbed was inappropriate and came from shock, disbelief and anger. This does not excuse by any means the language or pain it caused to our community.
We ask for your forgiveness.

The incident comes in the wake of other high-profile incidents including the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks on April 12th. Outrage and protests over the event have resulted in the company’s plans to close 8,000 of its stores on May 29th for employee racial-bias training.

This incident reignited discussion of a 2015 incident at Elmwood Café in Berkeley involving CNN television show host/local comedian W. Kamau Bell. Elmwood abruptly shut their doors last Friday after the national attention led to a flood of negative reviews and posts.

1:11 p.m. update: When we reached out to Cornology Founder/CEO Mark Stone for comment via email, he provided the following response:

Thank you for contacting me about this unfortunate incident. We are profoundly sorry to the community for what was done in a moment of frustration during the heat of the moment. The store was a victim of a snatch and grab when over 15 kids deluged the store and ran out with merchandise. One lagged behind and started throwing unsuccessful punches. The response was not warranted under any circumstance and we are very sorry for reacting in the heat of the moment.

2:02 p.m. update: Emeryville Police Jennifer Tejada confirmed that her force responded to a call at the establishment on Sunday. “We responded to a call from the store owner requesting help with 19 juveniles who stole several items, tried to punch him and threw soda cans at him.”

Tuesday, April 24th update: In an interview with SF Chronicle reporter Justin Phillips, witnesses Fay Eastman and Aisha Weber described the Cornology employee as having provoked the incident saying he ‘aggressively’ demanded they leave as soon as they entered the store. “I didn’t see those kids running out with bags of popcorn. He just didn’t want them in the store,”

Witness photo on the left compared to professional bio photo of Cornology CEO Mark Stone.

Tuesday, April 24th update: Controversy continues to mount as witnesses, a Chronicle Reporter and an anonymous Emeryville official all attest that the employee involved in the incident was in fact Cornology CEO Mark Stone. The Cornology Facebook Page has been deactivated in response to the barrage of criticism from the public. As of today, the employee involved is still employed by the company.

Wednesday, April 25th update: Eater SF appears to have confirmed that Stone was indeed the ’employee’ and he was speaking of himself in the third person. “I am deeply sorry for what I did in the heat of a very tense moment during a robbery on Sunday. I reacted improperly during a very tense moment. I have sought forgiveness with GOD, Family and friends.”

Since this is breaking news, we will update this story as new information becomes available.


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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

44 Responses to Emeryville Cornology under fire after witnesses attest use of racial slur by employee

  1. Phil Epstein says:

    Regardless of the issue of who’s “responsible” in situations like this, this a a bs apology – “Our response to being robbed” “came from shock, disbelief and anger”. Oh OK well you were angry and that’s why you used the most offensive racial slur in society. “Inappropriate” is a sadly sanitized corporate shadow of what it really was. And they ask for forgiveness in the same breath!

  2. If whites were stealing would they have yelled “don’t come back here honkies?” If it had been Jews wearing keepahs would they have yelled “don’t come back here kikes?” Probably not.

    Proper training would involve learning to yell non-racist words at anyone stealing popcorn. “Don’t come back here you Bolsheviks.”

  3. Avi Jacobson says:

    “We have reached out to Cornology Founder/CEO Mark Stone for comment.” Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that it is Cornology Founder/CEO Mark Stone who used the racial epithets. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=723644047652209&set=a.723643677652246.1073741825.100000198600349&type=3

    • Rob Arias says:

      Thanks Avi, It wasn’t super obvious to me by looking at the pic and his professional bio it was the same person. If it is indeed him, clearly he has nobody to blame but himself and it’s going to be harder to fire or train them out of this bad PR. I’ll add that if this is the first word that comes out of one’s mouth when under duress, then this person might be repressing something that he should confront and should probably consider a different line of work that doesn’t involve dealing with the public at large.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for posting this, I worked at that same store three years ago and after putting my best foot forward for him, he would cut my hours completely and when I ask for a reason he simply said he didnt have any. After that, i just didn’t go back. Its good to read this, feels like a win. So thanks again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Rob, I also looked him up on LinkedIn and was going to give him a heads up before it went further. Then I blew up the photo and realized, same dude, ten years and ten bajillion pounds of popcorn later.

      • Andrea says:

        I am trying to understand this; 15 black kids came into the store, stole things and this guy used a racial slur and everyone is all crazy because he used a racial slur? What about the kids who were stealing? Why isn’t anyone angry about that? Who are these kids’ parents and why are they allowed to run around in a big group like this stealing and apparently intimidating people? I just moved to Bay Area a couple years ago and all I can say is that people here truly do live in a bubble. You need to get your priorities straight. Both things that happened were terrible, but one was infinitely worse than the other.

      • Anonymous says:

        I completely agree with Andrea’s comment. Why is no one looking into the group of kids that robbed the store? That’s really the bigger deal. The owner wasn’t just outside yelling the N word at people, it was provoked .The owner shouldn’t have used that word but hasn’t anyone else ever experience adrenaline pumping anger? The store owner was assaulted and had a group of 15 kids/teenagers in the store stealing his stuff and throwing soda??

      • Anonymous says:

        Because ignoring what the group of teens did makes it a better photo op and fits the narrative that the owner just runs around shouting racist things at random people of color when two thirds of his clients are people of color. He certainly shouldn’t be shouting racist things, but he shouldn’t have to endure being robbed 4 times either.

        Our mayor used the event as a photo op. I assume when he says “the aftermath of an act of hate”, he’s not referencing the teens robbing the store.

        The telling feature of this story is that we haven’t heard from even one of the teens. There’s a reason no one is seeking out the teens for their input and none of the teens are leaping at the opportunity to admit they were there.


        Bauters photo op tweet: “Tonight, a new family of friends has formed from a place of love & support in the aftermath of an act of hate.”

        Note that he has yet to make any comment about the shooting of Alex Madias. Is shooting someone in the head not an act of hate?

        We need to really get serious about putting some real leaders on our city council. People who can address all sides of problems rather than just exploit bad situations for political gain.

      • Anonymous says:

        Like the lady who posted this outrage on Facebook said, these are babies who risk being scarred for life.

        Mayor Bauters just wants to make sure we all know that when he runs for office.

        Nothing better than a white man working black oppression for his ego and agenda.

        This community knows they get free passes to act the way they do because there will always be some white man running his mouth about how he is such a cool white man looking out for them.

    • Anonymous says:

      He’s the owner..trickles from the top

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think it’s the same guy. They look pretty different. The CEO of the whole Cornology enterprise is probably not working the counter at one of their four locations. The guy may be the owner of that franchise.

      • Anonymous says:

        The SFgate article makes it clear that the worker is NOT the CEO Mark Stone.

  4. Nicholas Calderon says:

    The stores statement that “ Our response to being robbed was inappropriate and came from shock, disbelief and anger.“ indicates that they are seeking some Sort of community sympathy because they were ‘robbed.’ The use of the term ‘robbed’ is itself overly inflammatory and extremely inaccurate, and I would guess purposely misleading. Being ‘robbed’ involves taking money or property by the threat of the use of force or the actual use of force. Consequently, shoplifting, even if such a thing could be proven, I’d not robbery or anywhere close to it. I have not read any account of the incident in which a robbery was described. To suggest, knowing it to be false, that their employee was physically accosted and threatened with bodily harm unless some caramel popcorn was turned over is just more maddening. They would have been better off not saying anything instead of being caught trying to garner sympathy. The community deserves sympathy, this company does not. What isn’t really strange is that they don’t even say whether the employee was let go because of this incident.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately Bay Street sees this too often from the same demographic. Poor word choice, but any Emeryville resident knows where the trouble comes from.

    Don’t lie to me and tell me otherwise.

    • Avi Jacobson says:

      Thank you, “Anonymous,” for the courage of your piss-ant racist convictions. My name is Avi Jacobson, I sign my comments, and I endorse this message.

      • Anonymous says:

        so, was he/she wrong?

      • Eville Resident says:

        Glad you can virtue signal online with your real name. The fact of the matter is crime is very common in Emeryville and the one carrying out these crimes happen to be black. Is that racist to say? I mean, fact is fact, but if you’re gonna bury your head in the sand and scream “racism”, you might be part of the problem.

        I’m not gonna condone the use of that word. It makes me sick the hear about this incident. And I too advocate the boy cott of this business.

  6. Anonymous says:

    No, I’m not wrong but now Avi gets to pat him/herself on the back for being so much better than me. Congrats, hope that makes your community safer and more livable. Means nothing to me.

    I’ve had this same demographic call me your VARIOUS non-PC names as I was merely trying to go about my life here in Emeryville. I’ve seen others incur their wrath. I’m over feeling empathetic. They get all sorts of passes, and for what?

    I don’t think the owner did the right thing. However, enough of this faux outrage over popcorn.

    Feel free to Progressive-enable all you want, for everyone you want.

    That doesn’t change that these hoodrats are up to no good for the same of being up to no good.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So the E’Ville Eye does a story on a You Tube video featuring a racist in Emeryville and its readers are bringing mixed comments. Some are noting the poor choice of words but applauding the racist’s pleas for racism. These are the readers this site draws and this is the Editor’s base. We shouldn’t be shocked when conservatives use the conservative news site. Racists are among us in droves.

    • Anonymous says:

      Check out that racist who rants on and on against Rubio on any EUSD post over there. Some disgruntled father. That’s the kind of reader that liberal site attracts. Yes, racists everywhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      Given that there has been exactly one troll in the past decade or so who has decided that the EvilleEye is a conservative news site (idiotic), given that the same troll has been trolling the comment section of the EvilleEye in just about every article for the past month, and given that said troll has been parroting the Tattler’s inevitably ludicrous talking points over and over, I think we can all assume we know from whence and for whom you speak.

      On behalf of Emeryville, PLEASE STOP MAKING EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU and your truly hopeless effort to compete with the EvilleEye.

      Every social issue isn’t an opportunity for you to try to gather a few more readers or pursue your political agenda. THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This article covers an important issue that does not directly involve you or your street. Your efforts to make it about you is about as privileged and obnoxious as it gets.

      And yes, it’s perfectly possible to hold these two “mixed” views at the same time:
      #1 “teens should not mob rob stores”
      #2 “shopkeepers shouldn’t yell racist epithets even if they do”

      Sheesh.

      • Anonymous says:

        Many of the readers this site attracts can’t imagine there’s another way of seeing the world. Other ways of seeing constitute the very definition of ‘otherness’ and that’s catnip for conservatives. And so they react emotionally, lashing out in anger. This kind of xenophobia is embodied in conservative thought (if you can call it that). Here at the E’Ville Eye, the conservatives can’t imagine there could be any legitimate thought beyond their conservative dogma and so when they come across it, in addition to what they see as illegitimate ideas, they also see something truly rare if not unique. In their world, the Tattler has no readers and anyone expressing progressive ideas must therefore be its Editor. The world of these conservatives is dark, dreary and filled with fear and rage. I’m here to inform E’Ville Eye readers there’s at least two progressives reading the Tattler. Sorry to rock your world so.

      • Anonymous says:

        You haven’t rocked anyone’s world. You are trolling.

        First you are arguing AGAINST “mixed” views on a topic. Now you are arguing that the readers here would be surprised there ARE “mixed” views on a topic. If you’re going to troll, at least troll with a little consistency. You’re making trolls look bad.

        Your goal, as it has been for a month, is to steer a conversation about a community issue (in this case, racism) toward an EvilleEye versus Tattler fight.

        Now you’ve managed to get all confused and can’t decide if you are in favor of a wide range of ideas or just one set.

        I’m sure it’s helpful to you and whatever political axe you are grinding. Very progressive too! Distracting from a conversation about racism toward an old white guy’s blog readership is a great way to help the world.

        Your desire is clearly to cast the readers of the EvilleEye as “conservatives” and the readers of the Tattler as “progressive” when the opposite is actually true. It was ludicrous the first time you trolled the site with it. It was ludicrous the second. And the third. It’s just tiresome and stupid.

        Little hint for you: The site reporting on racism in the community: progressive. The site fighting the development of housing to protect the trees on one street: conservative.

        I will grant you one thing. At least one of the EvilleEye’s readers is kind of an ass. That he distracts from actual, real, in-the-flesh racism to turn the subject to himself and his political/personal agenda makes him fairly despicable.

      • Anonymous says:

        To the Editor-
        You and your readers can’t seem to help constantly bringing up the Tattler, your readers explicitly and you by extension (owing to your fear of using the ’T’ word aloud) whenever criticism of the E’Ville Eye is raised. It’s an indication of TDS (Tattler Derangement Syndrome) and you should be made aware of this problem. The Tattler is everywhere for TDS sufferers, just under the surface, seeping into everything, coloring their world and making normal human interaction nigh impossible. It has taken away your ability to hear criticism and with it the possibility of your site from being a true community resource.

      • Anonymous says:

        Troll, troll, troll your boat,
        Gently down the stream,
        Contrarily, contrarily, contrarily, contrarily,
        Life is but a meme.

  8. Maxine Butler says:

    Once again, the art of deflection hiding behind the mask of political correctness. I am an older African-American citizen who is more pained by the spirit of ruthless, mob-style lawlessness amongst our youth that is being allowed to go unchecked. I agree racial slurring in response to the alleged crime is wrong, however, that does not excuse the behavior of the alleged thieves. Theft is theft. Before the community takes to the streets in protest, stop and consider what component needs to be removed from the equation. Sin was the impetus that can only be remedied by the saving grace of Jesus. Parents: Proverbs 19:18 says: Chasten your son while there is hope. There is no hope outside of Christ. He is our only hope.

  9. Angel Lyn says:

    I am more concerned with the groups of teens who steal from the various businesses at Bay Street. This should be the focus, not a deragory term used by the owner. I’ve seen a laptop stolen while someone was working on it at Barnes & Nobel Cafe, the same group of kids stole a phone out of someone’s hands as they walked thru the center. I work locally and see one particular group of teens being disrespectful to the community. Due to the reduced punishments for thefts under a specific dollar amount, the kids get a ticket if caught. I don’t know if the same kids were involved in this incident. Regardless, they need to be the focus, not the person who was harassed by the kids. Their parents need to teach them respect. I will be buying from Cornology today as their team members just experienced a poor workplace experience and deserve support over the kids who caused the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      And now we have readers at this site clamoring to patronized this racist’s store. E’Ville Eye readers will flock to this guy’s place in solidarity against those scary dark skinned children. My case now rests for any moderates that may occasionally land on this site. This is the conservative news site for Emeryville.

    • Carol Wyatt says:

      BOTH ISSUES should be a concern….however,not defending minority teens but having been a minority teen that never went to jail but having shop-lifted…many teens, of all demographics, shoplift. He should focus on his security and work on his hate speech because he’s not making a target of himself for doing what he did. Unfortunately, this is spreading like wild fire

  10. Curtis Walters says:

    I used to work over in Emeryville for Trader Joe’s and there is a group of BM’s used to come around and terrorize the place .now I understand that he shouldn’t have use that tone or language but those little wannabes should get what they deserve. regardless they should not be taking things that don’t belong to them and if you don’t agree with me just name a time and place, and I will tell you about yourself . Yes, I happened to be black and I’m from the south. The parents are responsible, so if something happen to them then it’s everyone else’s fault . Back then the village cared. But the village is gone. Raise your dam kids to keep their hands off peoples belongings. Right is right. Wrong is wrong!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The village still cares. We just forgot how to speak up.

      You spoke up. Carol spoke up. Maxine spoke up. Thanks for that.

      Maybe we’ll remember.

    • Max Cadji says:

      ^^^^
      I would suggest you read the eye witness account of the person who took the picture. She does not tell it this way, rather that the young people were profiled and harassed and then responded with a disruption. That is the account of the women who posted the original facebook message

      • Anonymous says:

        That account differs dramatically from the shopkeepers eyewitness report to the police. So either the account of the woman suggesting the boycott is inaccurate or misleading, the shopkeeper’s account to the police is inaccurat or misleading, or the truth is somewhere in between.

      • Anonymous says:

        Or possibly both are accurate.

        A very large number of teens enters the store, the shopkeeper tells them he can’t have that many people in the store, the kids overreact, the shopkeeper overreacts, and it escalates.

  11. Kevin Smith says:

    Actions speak louder than words. The theft is ignored and the words are the sole focus. No wonder race relations will never improve.

  12. Eville Resident says:

    So the main take away from this incident is: it’s ok the steal if you’re black and someone lets the n-word slip.

    Noted.

  13. Anon says:

    Sorry…two wrongs don’t make a right. We, as adults, must take a high road and the owner/manager (or whomever) didn’t. Lead by example!

    And, I say that as a white”conservative”, apparently.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Needless to say, yelling racist things is never ok. But for context, below are “notable event” incident reports from EPD.

    These are ONLY the incidents at Bay Street, ONLY the “notable events”, ONLY the incidents involving juveniles, and ONLY the incidents from January.

    January 27, 2018
    “Officers on the Bay Street mall detail were on the platform just above the
    courtyard. The officers heard screaming coming from the ground level and went
    downstairs. They saw several subjects running and being chased by a
    victim. The victim yelled to the officers that the subjects running stole her
    purse. Officers detained two out of the four suspects. Officers attempted to locate
    the victim’s purse and the outstanding suspects and could not locate
    them. Officers spoke to the victim and she said the suspects attacked her from
    behind. The suspects threw a drink at the victim and started to beat her. The
    victim dropped her purse and one of the suspects picked it up and ran. The two
    detained subjects were positively identified as the suspects by witnesses and the
    victim. The juvenile suspects were placed under arrest. The suspects were
    transported to Juvenile Hall on robbery charges. The victim suffered minor
    injuries.”

    January 21, 2018
    “Officers responded to a robbery call at Barnes and Noble. Several juveniles stole
    a victim’s cellular phone and took off running. The victim chased after the
    suspects. A Good Samaritan chased after the suspect with the cellular phone
    and was able to get the phone back. The male juveniles then proceeded to attack
    the Good Samaritan. An officer arrived on scene and witnessed the juveniles
    beating up the Good Samaritan. The officer ordered the juveniles to the ground
    and they took off running. The officer was able to chased down one of the
    suspects and take him into custody. The Good Samaritan told officers that one of
    the suspects was armed with a gun in the waistband. Officers attempted to locate
    the outstanding juveniles and could not find them. The juvenile was booked into
    Juvenile Hall.”

    January 20, 2018
    “Officers responded to the Bay Street mall for about 100 juveniles running around
    the mall causing a disturbance. A fight was reported inside Barnes and Noble.
    One employee was injured trying to break up the fight. Officers arrived in the
    area and monitored the juveniles who left Bay Street. There were reports of the
    juveniles possessing a taser. The juveniles went from the Hyatt House, back to
    Bay Street and then to the Courtyard by Marriott. Officers contacted the staff at
    the Marriott to learn the juveniles went to several rooms for parties. Officers
    assisted the staff with evicting the occupants out of the hotel rooms. Officers
    returned to Bay Street and met with the Barnes and Noble employee. The
    employee requested a report for documentation only. Officers continued to
    monitor the Bay Street Mall and surrounding businesses until the area was clear.”

    January 6, 2018
    “On two separate occasions officers responded to the Bay Street mall for 40-50
    juveniles after security officers wanted the juveniles to leave the property.”

    January 1, 2018
    “Officers were detailed to the Bay Street Mall on a report of a fight that occurred.
    Security requested assistance with asking several juveniles to leave the mall.
    The two involved participants from the fight reportedly left prior to the officers’
    arrival. A group of 50-60 juveniles congregated near the open common area
    where the disturbance occurred and left upon the request of security when
    officers arrived.”

    • Anonymous says:

      To think calling these harmless angel babies names could scar them for life.

      Emeryville conservatives on the other hand will burn in hell, right?

    • Anonymous says:

      The issue is that this is a hard problem to solve that involves tracking down parents, working with the schools and the police, fighting back against the natural tendencies of teens to be unruly, and demanding/coercing a higher standard of behavior. It is the basic battle that parents and teens have waged since the beginning of time. It’s hard and requires persistent, strong willed pressure from adults to prevent kids from doing stupid things. It requires a community that is confident they can impose a common denominator of behavior on every young person regardless of race, that they can say “no, you can’t rob stores and get a pass if someone shouts something racist at you afterward”.

      A far easier but entirely useless approach to the issue is to go on TV, blame rampant systemic racism, and do a photo op saying how progressive you are. Ignoring why the shopkeeper was yelling, ignoring the behavior that led to the incident lowers the bar. It guarantees that parents and the community will never be able to reign in teen behavior.

      All I can think of reading this is all the black parents I know who would tell their teen in no uncertain terms, “yeah he’s a damn racist, but if you don’t want someone to call you the n***** word, don’t rob the damn store, and don’t give any damn fool an excuse for being a racist”.

      The most racist thing being done in this community is not the shop owner shouting a racist word after being robbed again. It’s the mayor using black kids as a tool and lowering the bar for children of color just to promote his political career.

      There are a lot of black parents who would like white adults to stop telling their unruly teens that everything they do is society’s fault. It’s revealing that many of the messages on this board from black adults are the ones saying “yes, the racism is bad, but there is a bigger problem when groups of black teens are behaving like this. we need to address BOTH problems.”

      We do need to address both problems. And the mayor might want to remember that next time he’s trying to find a camera to stand in front of.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well it worked for Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsome so why the hell won’t it work for Bauters?

        Martínez had MWO.

        Pretty sure Medina will get her bite at the apple too.

        When they’ve all moved on in 5 years pretty sure these same impressionable kids will be holding you up at gun point as you get home from work. And you’ll still be a racist conservative and at fault.

      • Anonymous says:

        Easy solutions don’t age well.

        After the layoffs, the robberies, the shootings, the lost youth, the homeless on every sidewalk, and the needles and human waste on every corner, the stories of progressive paradise start to grow a little old.

        If you’re going to sell people a load of goods, you need to be first to market.

      • Anonymous says:

        If Mayor Bauters really wanted to make a difference in those kids’ lives, he’d help them get jobs at Bay Street and put them on the right track in life. Oh wait, he’s one of those $15 minimum wage guys that doesn’t think this impacts teen employment despite the empirical evidence. Nevermind!

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