American flag torn down at veteran-owned business in Newburyport

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — The American flag outside a veteran-owned coffee shop in Newburyport was ripped down just days after opening, the owners told Boston 25 News. On Aug. 6, the flag was found on the ground outside Battle Grounds Coffee Company on Pleasant Street.

For Sal DeFranco, a former Navy SEAL who owns the business with his wife Dana, the heartless crime was especially upsetting on the 10-year anniversary of the deadliest day in SEAL Team history: when a Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

“My heart was already pretty heavy that day,” DeFranco said. “And just to kind of come in and see an American flag the way it was, was really gut-wrenching.”

Sal and his wife Dana had opened their shop July 31 to a warm welcome from the community.

“The city has been so welcoming. The people here in Newburyport have been fantastic,” Dana said. “So, to walk into that was a real shocker.”

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Because the flag had been hung a bit low, the couple hopes the vandalism was no more than a thoughtless crime of opportunity.

“The flag was screwed into the building. So, it took a lot of force to get it out. It actually snapped the pole,” Dana said. “We’re hoping that it was more of low-hanging fruit, and there wasn’t another motivation behind it.”

The DeFrancos notified Newburyport Police, not with the intention to prosecute whoever is responsible, but to make law enforcement aware of the incident in case there were other crimes elsewhere.

“I just want to tell [the person who vandalized the flag] that, regardless of your personal beliefs or your feelings towards others’ personal beliefs, you always have to be respectful of those,” Sal said. “I would recommend to that person, instead of just destroying something, next time maybe go have a conversation with that person that owns that flag.”

The DeFrancos also own a shop in a Haverhill location. They hire veterans and support vets and their families through fundraisers and events. The shops are more than a business, they are the couple’s way of giving back – in part, what the flag symbolizes.

“It’s about supporting the community in which you’re in. Regardless of your beliefs, regardless of your affiliations, we welcome you,” Sal said. “For me, that’s what America stands for.”