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DENVER — A popular Denver coffee shop was vandalized with a racial slur on Wednesday morning, and now the search is on to find the person responsible.

It happened at the Whittier Cafe, near East 26th Avenue and Franklin Street.

The owner of the shop was brought to tears when she saw the hateful message scrawled on her front ledge. Cleaning crews have now scrubbed it off – but the owner says those two words leave lasting negativity.

“All of our beans come from different African Nations,” Millete Birhanemaske said.

Step inside the bustling coffee shop, nestled in the Whittier neighborhood, and you will see an espresso bar rich in history.

“This neighborhood was the only place African Americans could buy property, we had red lining and segregation.”

Birhanemaske is a vibrant Ethiopian woman who describes her spot as a social justice hub.

“It represents a blending of cultures,” Birhanemaske said.

Her show caters to all walks of life.

“We have a justice fund, where we treat people to coffee if they can’t afford to buy it,” Birhanemaske said.

But when her baristas opened up on Wednesday morning, they were greeted with a disturbing message.

“I didn’t think someone’s nasty, ugly words could be so hurtful. I hate that I’m even crying right now,” Birhanemaske said.

Scrawled in permanent marker was an expletive and racial slur referencing the “n” word.

“It was a punch in the gut,” Birhanemaske said.

The blatant hate brewed outrage in customers.

“I was just dismayed. I love the coffee shop. I love everyone here,” Christine Muggleton said.

Then loyal customers like, Christine Muggleton, offered a gesture of kindness to lighten the mood.

“Oh my god someone brought flowers,” Birhanemaske said.

Birhanemaske is determined to not let the cruel message stop her mission of promoting positive change in the community.

“This guy or whoever it was can’t deter what we’ve got going on here – it’s just all love. Someone told me this coffee shop is bubble wrapped in love so that hate can’t penetrate haha, and that brought me to tears,” Birhanemaske said.

Police detectives are continuing to investigate this. If you have any information call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.