Shortly before noon today, Elsa Ruggiero, the owner of Splash of Red Hair Studio near the West 7th corridor, wrote a long, sincere, direct, and what appears to be a private message to the owners of Hot Box Biscuit Club. Ruggiero said she had noticed that the Near Southside restaurant had not issued any sort of statement on the killing of George Floyd or the associated protests that have spread across the globe but uses African-American cultural references among others as part of its menus. Anyone hungry for “Pimpento” cheese and “Notorious P.I.G.” and wanting to chase it down with “Ice T” knows where to go now.
Ruggiero wanted to know why Hot Box remained “completely silent on the topic of racial injustice.”
It is disturbing, she said, “that Hot Box can benefit so much from black culture and be silent on black issues.”
She requested a statement from the restaurant owners.
The owners only said, “Thanks.”
Ruggiero responded, “So what’s your plan moving forward?”
“None of your concern,” Hot Box replied.
“It is absolutely my concern,” Ruggiero said. “Do better.”
“It actually is not your concern,” Hot Box said. “But thanks.”
Rather than say, “You’re welcome,” Ruggiero posted a note on her own Facebook page that included a screenshot of her exchange with Hot Box.
“My community is my concern,” she wrote. “My community was my concern before I was a stylist, and now they’re the only reason I have a business to be proud of. The black community being murdered is my concern. It’s your concern, too. It should be Hot Box’s concern, but they’re really just so focused on figuring out which rapper’s face would look trendy on their menu next. You understand. I don’t appreciate being brushed off. I don’t appreciate not being met with the same open mind and compassion that I offer to others. I don’t appreciate black lives being less important than fried chicken drowned in gravy. I ask that you be intentional about the businesses you support — don’t shop where you aren’t a concern. Hot Box Biscuit Club, is it my concern yet?”
After a few hours, her post had been shared more than 100 times and received more than 150 comments from others. People began leaving bad reviews for Hot Box on various online platforms.
Hot Box issued a quick and conciliatory response on its page: “We realize that our response to Elsa Ruggiero message was careless and lacked sensitivity. We are very sorry for that and want everyone reading this to know that we support you. We back our black community and black businesses. It is valuable for our fellow community members to reach out and provide us with feedback to help us do better. We acknowledge that Elsa Ruggeiro [sic] gave us the opportunity to be better and we responded with haste. Thank you for giving us suggestions and providing us the opportunity to improve ourselves and our community. We look forward to showing you that we can and will do better.”
After three hours, Hot Box’s statement had received almost 1,000 comments. Most were not supportive. Example: “Could have been such an opportunity for you, but y’all let your entitled privileged attitude bring you down.”
Ruggiero left her own comment on the Hot Box page: “Had it not been for every single one of you who wrote a review, messaged them, shared my post — we would have no apology. So thank you for the back up.”
I reached out to the Hot Box owners and asked them to call me. I received a response that said they would but needed more time.