The owner of a Greek restaurant in La Crosse, Wisconsin, was moved to tears over the weekend at the show of support and gratitude she received after shutting down a homophobe on Facebook.
Despina Kozidis, AKA Gracie, is the owner of Gracie’s Gyros and Wraps on Campbell Road.
When a woman posted a message on a La Crosse Foodie Facebook page seeking recommendations for places to eat in the town, Gracie took the opportunity to post a message last Wednesday about her business.
That should have been the end of the matter, except for the fact that Kozidis had recently changed her profile image to incorporate a rainbow via the Facebook rainbow filter app.
Her posting was spotted by local Tea Party activist, Greg Luce, reports the La Crosse Tribune. He clearly didn’t like the fact that Gracie was a visible supporter of LGBT rights, and posted a message saying that he would no longer consider using her business.
‘Hi Despina. I saw your post on La Crosse Foodie. I love gyros, but I detest people with rainbow filters on their picture. It’s an abomination that we are being forced to condone deviant sexual behavior. I will NOT be visiting your restaurant, I’m sorry.’
Kozidis was shocked. She had not expected negative commentary and was thrown by what to do. She phoned her daughter, Sofia Kozidis, for advice.
‘She was freaking out,’ Sophia told the Tribune, before explaining that her mother had experienced intolerance and bigotry while growing up in Greece but had not expected to encounter the same in the U.S.
‘The culture that she’s grown up in is sometimes not very accepting, but in coming to the U.S., being a single mother, having a business, she’s learning every day how to be a part of the community, how to be accepting.’
Mother and daughter thought long about what to do, before deciding that they didn’t think a customer with views such as those voiced by Luce would be welcome at their establishment. So, Gracie answered with the following message.
‘That’s great! We prefer to have accepting, coexisting consumers. It seems we have come to an agreement that it is best for both parties that you do not visit my business. Thank you.’
Sofia took a screenshot of the exchange. She redacted Luce’s surname, and posted the image to her own Facebook page and also to the La Crosse Foodie page. Luce labeled the posting as ‘inappropriate’, and removed his comment. The La Crosse Foodie page was also subsequently closed down.
Any fears Gracie may have had that her stance would lead to negative recriminations against her business were quickly dispelled. She received message of support on both her own Facebook page and the page of Gracie’s Gyros and Wraps.
After the end of business on Saturday, the following message was posted on the Gracie’s Gyros and Wraps page:
‘We want to thank each and every single person who commented, sent well wishes and love and traveled to come and see Gracie at the restaurant today.
‘We were not prepared for the overwhelming outpouring of love and support. So, if you did not get served as quickly as we would have wanted to serve you, please accept our deepest apologies!
‘Come back and we now know how to handle this.
‘This was completely unexpected and very much appreciated. Gracie, at one point, had to go into the kitchen and cry from the level of attendance and show of support.
‘You will never know just how much this means to her and her family. So please, accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that may have been caused today. We love you. We want to see you again. We are closed tomorrow but Monday will bring a new day and better preparations for all the love coming our way!’
Another posting simply said: ‘At Gracie’s we love everyone. Food does not show discrimination; food does not judge and everyone is welcome under a roof of love here!’
Speaking to Gay Star Business, Gracie said that she had been ‘shocked’ by the support she had received over the last few days: ‘I’m still in shock’.
Although she had received ‘a couple’ of negative comments on social media, the positive comments had greatly outweighed the negative.
A spokesperson for 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection, a local advocacy organization that promotes LGBT-friendly businesses, told Gay Star Business it was great to see the establishment get such support.
‘Gracie’s has worked to keep their doors open through some lean times,’ said Executive Director, Jackson Jantzen.
‘It makes her willingness to make the exchange and her position as a welcoming and inclusive business member a more powerful gesture.
‘We are so grateful to see such a large number of our community rally around her with appreciation. It’s a powerful moment in time for our community here in the rural Midwest region our organization serves.’