Last week we had a story about Carmen Quiroga, who immigrated to the US from Mexico 17 years ago, and who was living the American dream, opening up a little breakfast spot in Coventry, Connecticut. But it has turned into a bit of a nightmare, since she chose for her business a name that seemed in tune with its value proposition, but that, unbeknownst to her, held political connotations: Woke.
As might be expected, there are those in Coventry who want nothing to do with the place because of what the name represents, and those who think those people ought to give Carmen Quiroga a break. My point was simple - unfortunately, we live in a polarized world in which that kind of comity may not be possible. (Would the folks sympathetic to Carmen go to a bar and grill called MAGA?)
This story and my commentary solicited a lot of email.
One MNB reader wrote:
Listened to your video on “Woke” restaurant issue. Poor lady has been in business 17 years and the cost is prohibitive for her to change the name… signage, menus, etc. Out of curiosity, I looked up MAGA and discovered that a New Orleans restaurant has that name and is rated the #1 New Orleans restaurant by Trip Advisor! Let both of these small businesses serve the public and provide for their families!
From another reader:
I read this story, I thought it appropriate that the end story (at least so far) is that they have been serving SRO (standing room only) crowds since the day they opened...people are showing their support with their breakfast dollars.
MNB reader Ron Beltramo wrote:
Kevin…As always, I try to review your Face Time message each day I see it. Your message about “Unfortunate Crosscurrents” with Woke Breakfast & Coffee Company caught my interest.
If, as you say Carmen & Carlos (founders of Woke) were unaware of the potential controversy naming their restaurant “Woke”, it appears that they are very naïve, and looking at the website, may have gotten some bad advice. Also see that they are offering WOKE MERCH (hats, tote bags and mugs – coming soon) on the website – which notes “Do you have merch? We want support from afar”. “We are so grateful for all the support we have received from around the world. We are currently working on creating merch and will notify you when it is ready”. Note…I couldn’t help myself and had to sign up to be notified to see what the “merch” looks like.
I tend to give the founders of WOKE the benefit of the doubt, but wonder if a name change might be a good idea to avoid polarizing their potential customer base. Perhaps start a “Go Fund Me” page to pay for the cost of name change and redo of the “merch”. Perhaps just change the name to “YOKE” (swap the W with a Y).
And from another reader:
Kevin, I must say your FaceTime comments this morning are a “bridge too far”. A breakfast place called “Woke” is not only appropriate but accurate. Something that is core to branding i.e. say what you are/do.
That this has caused any uproar is a sad commentary on the current direction of our country, and is very sad. Just have to shake my head.
Kevin, I could not agree with you more on this issue. I feel bad for this owner who is simply trying to live the American dream. As a conservative, my view on the work woke are obvious, but it would not stop me from going to this restaurant if the food and service were good.
As another example, I am a music buff and love a wide variety of music. If I were only to buy music from those artists that align with my political views, it would be much more narrow than it is.
Let’s give this woman a break and give her place a try.
And from another MNB reader:
I always enjoy your Face Time... Your words today, I wish we were a better Country, is interesting because I think we are the greatest Country in the Word – could we be better? Yes. That’s my opinion. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That’s part of why this is such a great Country. You do you and I’ll do me. As for Woke, I believe she meant no harm in naming her restaurant… but everyone has a choice. As consumers we can attend a restaurant or not attend a restaurant based on its name, location, employees, cuisine, price, flavor, etc. And the owner of a restaurant has the same choices – they can choose their name, location, employees, cuisine, price, flavor, etc. If I were in Coventry, CT, I would probably try Woke, but others may not. And that is okay. You do you and I’ll do me.
MNB reader Michael Zagrodny wrote:
Great post, appreciate your prospective on this very difficult subject.
Perhaps some simple rebranding around a tag line to why Carmen chose this name for her restaurant. I'm there are ways that would have very little cost or even free through the proper social media platform.
On another subject, from another MNB reader:
Your comment on Amazon, 'Seems to me that Amazon has to get back to its core mission of being resolutely focused on serving customer needs and empowering aspirations.', really struck me. Living your mission as an organization is what grounds it through business cycles and evolution of the business. Walmart has weathered the ups and downs by living their mission. Staying focused and true in both good and bad times is what makes that company successful.
Finally…the other day I did a FaceTime video about the significant number of people who would skip births, deaths and weddings to attend a Super Bowl game in which their favorite team was playing. I was chagrined. When an MNB reader challenged me on that, suggesting that I'd skip such events to watch a World Series game seven in which the New York Mets were playing, I responded:
In the unlikely event that the New York Mets were in the World Series and one of their games conflicted with a birth, wedding or funeral of a family member or close friend, I would take my cue from Sandy Koufax, who in 1965 decided not to pitch the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins because it fell on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
It is all about priorities. I might not be happy about missing the game, but I hope I'd do the right thing.
Which prompted another MNB reader to make the following observation about Koufax's decision:
Perhaps the most heinous display of narcissism in the annals of professional sports. It was “all about me - forget about my teammates, Dodger fans, and the people who are paying me.”
Wow. I don't even know how to respond to that, except to say that you and I appear to have different priorities and values.