- The family behind Martin’s Potato Rolls donated to Senator Doug Mastriano, according to Billy Penn.
- Mastriano is known for his Christian nationalist views and his denial of the 2020 election results.
- Customers are now asking Shake Shack to stop using Martin’s as a bun supplier.
The Shake Shack chain has become synonymous with smashed burgers, crinkle fries and Martin’s Potato Rolls. But the latter became a source of concern for customers after local Pennsylvania news site Billy Penn reported that the people behind the bun company had donated thousands of dollars to the top Republican candidate. as Governor of Pennsylvania, Senator Doug Mastriano.
Mastriano is considered a far-right Republican and recently received support from President Trump in the gubernatorial race, according to NBC News. Billy Penn reported that he gained popularity as a pro-Trump Holocaust denier with Christian nationalist beliefs.
Mastriano was also subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the January 6 uprising. NBC News reported that Mastriano used campaign money to charter buses that brought people to the Capitol.
According to Billy Penn, Jim Martin, the former chairman and current executive chairman of Martin’s Potato Rolls, gave $110,000 to Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign in 2021 — the largest donation to his campaign to date. He also donated $11,000 in 2020, according to the outlet.
Billy Penn reported that several other Martin family members also donated to Mastriano, including Jim’s wife, Donna Martin, who made an “in-kind donation worth just over $4,000. dollar”. Julie Martin, Jim’s daughter and social media manager for Martin’s Potato Rolls, donated $2,000 last year, according to the outlet.
Soleil Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that several Bay Area restaurants would stop buying Martin’s, and Mike Strauss of Mike’s BBQ in Philadelphia told Billy Penn he planned to stop using the rolls in his burger pop-ups. While Strauss told Billy Penn he “stays out of politics”, he said he was “disturbed” by this news and would “rather for my money not support this”.
Strauss is just one of many restaurateurs who have spoken with Billy Penn about their concerns and plans to stop using the buns. Mike Strauss did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Quinnie’s, a restaurant and market in Hudson, New York, posted its own photo denouncing the bun business and saying it won’t be buying them again. The restaurant also directly called Shake Shack to join in with help from other buns.
“Doug Mastriano is an outspoken anti-Semite, voter fraud conspirator, anti-abortion, racist, homophobic who witnessed the January 6 insurrection,” the caption reads. “We don’t want to participate in supporting something we so strongly disagree with.”
Quinnie’s declined to comment further when contacted by Insider.
Joe Rosenthal, a mathematician and food industry whistleblower, also posted a slideshow on Instagram, which sparked a conversation on social media.
“I have been a fan and have supported Martin’s tirelessly over the years on social media and on my website, but Jim Martin’s gift cannot be separated from Martin’s as a brand, and Martin’s cannot not be separated from the extreme right. The Christian nationalism that Mastriano strongly represents,” Rosenthal wrote in the caption of the photos.
People in the industry and other followers shared Rosenthal’s message and added their own calls for restaurants, individuals and chains to stop buying the buns. (Rosenthal recorded numerous shares in a highlight reel titled “Martin’s” on his Instagram page.)
In two successive posts, Rosenthal shared San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the company and its close ties to Shake Shack. He called Danny Meyer (CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group), Randy Garutti (CEO of Shake Shack) and Mark Rosati (Culinary Director at Shake Shack) to address the controversy and end the chain’s longstanding partnership with Martin’s as a supplier.
“It sucks,” Rosenthal told Insider. “I’m not here because I want to hate a hamburger bun company.”
Rosenthal told Insider he’s a fan of the buns and included them in a gift guide he posted on his website last year. The buns have now been removed from his guide along with a note on the controversy.
“I love Shake Shack,” he continued. “I just want everyone to stop funding a far-right Christian nationalist. It serves to hurt so many marginalized people. It’s scary. It’s scary if he wins. If far-right Christian nationalism right is normalizing. That’s what this is about.”
In a statement to Insider, a representative for Shake Shack said they were in conversation with Martin’s.
“Shake Shack has always stood for equality, inclusion and belonging within our company – and we know these values are important to our guests and team members,” the statement read. “Shake Shack does not make political donations, nor does the company endorse political donations from individuals.”
“With respect to the actions of individuals associated with Martin’s Company and their personal political donations – these are the choices of those individuals and do not express Shake Shack values,” he continued. “We continue to be in active conversation with Martin’s to express our concern.”
On May 17, Martin’s posted the above video of an American flag and a Christian nationalism flag to Instagram for primary election day in Pennsylvania. The caption read: “Martin’s as a company does not donate to any specific candidate or political party, but we encourage and celebrate the opportunity we all have to vote and participate in the electoral process.”
A representative for Martin’s echoed the above in a statement provided to Insider and said the company was “aware of the criticism”, adding that it would “continue to focus on the values that have made our business so successful. company – baking quality products, providing excellent service to our customers and supporting the communities around us.”