After 64 years in business, Philadelphia sandwich shop “Chinks” changed its name to “Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop.”
While some, including the owner, are glad to see the name change, many want the old name back and accuse the owner of caving in to political correctness.
“It was a tough decision," owner Joe Groh said. “I mulled that over for a few years...It’s 2013. It was time to do it.”
The store was named “Chinks” by the original owner, Samuel Sherman. Sherman, although not Asian, was nicknamed “Chink” by his friends because of his “almond eyes,” Groh said. But in 2003 Groh received a call from an enraged Asian-American student claiming that the name was blatantly racist.
Groh understood the student’s complaint but declined to change the name. Then, a few a years later, Groh opened up another Chinks in a different area of Philadelphia. The residents of the area didn’t like the name, and as a result didn’t support the business. Groh changed the name of the location, but the damage was already done. The neighborhood proved unforgiving and Groh was forced to close the shop.
So after complaints and a failed shop, Groh is changing the name of the original Chinks to prevent any more lost business over the name. But there’s one problem: customers of the original shop want the old name back. The customers have even started a petition to revert to the old name that’s received over 10,000 signatures.
"I mean, he's ignoring the 10,000 signatures on the petition to keep the name? Now, he's giving in to political correctness!" said customer Robert Quinn.
"I just think it's ridiculous," said Eleanor McGonigal, another longtime customer of the shop. “Cracker Barrel hasn't had to change their name. I mean, that could be made into a racist thing."
Groh’s bottom line has taken a hit, too. His sales are down 10-15% since changing the name. The shop has been vandalized several times, and the perpetrators often spray paint “Chinks” on the wall.
But Groh remains adamant that changing the name was the right thing to do, and that, in time, the community will agree with him. Pennsylvania Senator Mark Cohen supports the change as well.
"I understand people who want the past to govern the present, but there comes a point when you have to be responsive to changes that exist in the city,” Cohen said.