Best Buy is selling a curated collection of rainbow-themed merch in stores. 

Fifty years after a violent police raid of a New York City bar called the Stonewall Inn ignited a nationwide fight for gay rights, the corporate embrace of Pride Month is only widening.

For the first time, Richfield Best Buy will offer rainbow-themed products in 50 stores as well as its website. Target will sell Pride products at 55 more stores than last year.

For Jim Connelly, who opened the first gay-themed gift store in Minneapolis in 1997, it’s a welcome sign.

“When we first opened, it was like a breakthrough that Minneapolis had a store,” said Connelly, owner of the Rainbow Road in Loring Park. “Here we are 22 years later, 50 years after Stonewall, we’re part of the average American lifestyle.”

Best Buy credits employee Ehren Minkema for pushing the retailer to launch a collection of Pride-themed products. Minkema, who has worked for the company for five years, helped launch a collection that Best Buy offered for the first time last year, but only on its website.

This year, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain is selling a curated selection of products at 50 stores in major U.S. cities. Its website has grouped things such as rainbow-adorned mobile phone cases, watchbands and phone grips along with LGBT-themed movies, such as “Milk” and “Moonlight.”

The company also promotes blenders to “make your own Pride party” and a selection of instant cameras, drones, phones to “see Pride from your own perspective.”

Target is selling more than 90 items this year, including T-shirts for children and adults, fanny packs, push pins and flags. Items are available online and in 350 stores, including Minneapolis, which accounts for less than 20 percent of its nationwide footprint.

“People are sensing this year is different,” said Connelly of the Stonewall anniversary in New York and local celebrations. “We made a stand. And as result, here we are mainstreamed – and not shunned and humiliated – at the corporate level, at the policy level and at the political level.”

The Twin Cities Pride Festival will be held June 22 and 23 at Loring Park in Minneapolis. There will be 400 exhibitor booths, 40 food vendors, and four free stages with music and other performances.

“If you take a look at the parade, the park, you’ll find every major bank, many corporations, churches, you name it,” Connelly said. “It just shows how far in last 20 years in Minneapolis it has come. Twenty years ago you wouldn’t have found Best Buy and Wells Fargo at a parade or at the park.

“The corporate sponsorship is a plus, not a negative at all,” he added. “It’s important that they recognize that 5 or 10 percent or whatever percentage of their staff is gay or lesbian. Not that that’s important in and of itself – but it’s important to let people know that it’s OK.”

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