When Mexican immigrant Carmen Quiroga realized her American dream of opening a breakfast cafe, she had no idea that the name would spark controversy, criticism, and backlash in her new hometown.
Woke Breakfast & Coffee opened in Coventry, Connecticut this month, and according to its owner, “She wanted people to associate the cafe with waking up in the morning.”
But Quiroga’s neighbors didn’t see it that way.
She says she was accused of using the restaurant’s name to make a political statement – which she insists is far from the truth.
In fact, it was her son who designed the logo.
The “O” is replaced with a fried egg to symbolize the breakfast theme.
“You woke up and made the right choice,” is the company’s mantra.
Featured prominently on the menu and Woke Breakfast & Coffee merchandise, it wouldn’t be long before Coventry residents began clutching their pearls.
After Quiroga put up a sign with the logo on the building in September, residents began condemning the restaurant’s name. – WaPo
Quiroga was shocked to find out when finalizing the paperwork for the official opening that she was being maligned for her choice of naming the restaurant “Woke,” on the widely used social media website, Facebook.
“As for the company owner, let them do whatever they want, it used to be a free country until the Puritanical Progressives got a hold of it,” a user wrote.
Another poster commented that the new Connecticut resident would lose right-wing customers.
“Naming it ‘woke.’ Is that really such a good idea?” they asked.
Lisa Thomas, chairwoman of the Coventry Town Council, said that a private town Facebook group railed against the name – talking negatively about the restaurant and saying it wouldn’t succeed.
Those comments were later deleted.
“If nobody supports this,” Quiroga told The Washington Post, ” I’m going to lose everything.
Woke only has about nine tables, but the controversy brought out supporters as well.
The January 19th opening of the breakfast hotspot was met with long waits and sold-out dishes.
Growing up in Mexico City, Quiroga, and her husband moved to Connecticut in 2005.
With limited English, the pair worked their way up in the restaurant industry before opening the Italian-themed Sotelo’s Pizza & Restaurant nearly a decade later.
But long days – and balancing work and parenthood – prompted the couple to sell the Italian restaurant and set off on their new venture, a move that would give Quiroga the time she needed to spend with her nine-year-old son.
Woke’s menu is filled with traditional Mexican dishes, like the popular huevos rancheros.
Customers came out in droves to show support of the town’s latest small business owner, assuring Quiroga that the sentiment expressed by a vocal minority “didn’t represent the opinions of most residents.”
In the two weeks since Woke Breakfast & Coffee opened its doors, the town’s Republican Committee has come out in support of the restaurant, and its owner.
“While the name at first may set off some conservatives’ alarm bells, it is clear that the owner never intended for it to be a political statement. We strongly discourage any negativity toward this business or its hardworking, entrepreneurial owners.”
Too little, too late.
Quiroga came to this country to get her piece of the American Dream pie.
But despite her hard work and dedication, that dream almost turned into a nightmare thanks to the hyper-partisan, reactionary, and spiteful GOP.
Instead of getting to know the owner, or paying attention to the context, right-wing Karens seized on their lust for a culture war – rather than embrace a small business owner and her family’s attempts to integrate themselves into a society and country that, since its founding, has marketed itself to be the place where anyone – regardless of their circumstances, or where they’re from – can succeed.
This is where we are.
Original reporting by Kyle Melnick at The Washington Post.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick