In Wisconsin, we take our food seriously whether it be brats, beer or cheese. And, of course, we love our frozen custard.
One of the most iconic places to get frozen custard is Leon's Custard, located on the south side of Milwaukee. Leon's is the go to place in Milwaukee and people visiting from out of town make a purpose to go there while visiting. The lines are always long, even in the winter.
But for the past few days, the custard hasn't been as sweet. Not since it was revealed that the owner of Leon's, Ron Schneider, had an English-only business practice:
But customer Joey Sanchez said his Tuesday visit to Leon's wasn't as accommodating as Schneider lets on.
Sanchez said he was in line behind a Spanish-speaking woman who was told by an employee to place her order in English. When it was his turn to order, Sanchez, who speaks both English and Spanish, went to the window and proceeded to order in Spanish.
"She confirmed it to me in my face. She say, 'I'm not allowed to speak Spanish to you,'" Sanchez said, adding that the experience left him frustrated because Leon's makes "a good profit out of the Spanish community."
He said he believes it could only help Schneider if he relaxed his policy.
"I believe if I can ask for a product in my language and have somebody there that can speak it and understand me better, it's going to be better for him," Sanchez said. "It's going to attract more Latino customers and at the end he's going to show a better heart about how he feels about the Hispanic community."
Not only is a dumb business practice to have in general, but it is exceptionally stupid when one considers that Leon's is located in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood.
To make matters worse, Schneider then goes on to try to whitesplain things:
"I'd prefer that (employees) didn't speak in Spanish," said Schneider, who added that his wife is of Spanish and Apache Indian descent and only speaks English.
"This is still the United States. Why do we have to get involved in multi language things?" Schneider said.
If a Spanish-speaking employee is on duty and there is no other way to communicate with a customer Schneider said he would not prevent a Spanish language transaction.
He also pointed out that there are no signs posted pertaining to an English-only policy, that Spanish-speaking employees are free to talk to each other in the language and that his customers can speak any language they want.
"I guess I'm just an old guy too steeped in tradition," Schneider said.
"Steeped in tradition" is just a nice way of saying that the old, prejudiced ways are best.
By the end of the day on Thursday, Schneider relented from all of the bad press and pressure being put on by community groups and said that he had dropped the English-only policy.
However, the damage had already been done. When the news broke, it spread like wildfire on social media and people started an informal boycott. People asked for the feds to investigate whether Schneider violated federal labor laws. People started planning a protest in front of the business.
Interestingly, another business, Bounce Milwaukee really put pressure on by taking the unusual step of offering a free scoop of Purple Door Ice Cream to everyone who asked for it in a language other than English:
We love Milwaukee's linguistic and cultural diversity. To celebrate the amazing cultures and languages in our city, we're offering a free scoop of Purple Door Ice Cream to everyone who orders in a language other than English today. We're open from 10am - 9pm; our staff is happy to help you in English, Spanish, French, German, Tagalog, Croatian, Russian, Menominee, Korean, ASL, and in any other way that they can. No purchase necessary, one per customer (though everyone who makes the attempt in your group can use it); offer good while supplies last.
Yeah, we sure do love our food. Fortunately, many of us also still love our diversity and our sense of common decency.