Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Locals concerned about "Canadians Cook Your Food Here" sign at Pincher Creek Luigi's

Sign in front of Pincher Creek Luigi's (since changed)
Cindy Dwyer photos

Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice
(*updated May 28, 2014)

A sign in front of Pincher Creek's Luigi's restaurant has provoked a lot of feedback from area residents, several of whom brought it to our attention over the last couple of days.  The sign has since been changed, but read "Canadians cook your food here unlike the big chain".

"The big chain" referred to is probably Boston Pizza, which opened a Pincher Creek location at the beginning of 2013, and is located down the street from Luigi's.  The sign could also refer to the Tim Hortons, McDonald's, A&W, or Subway restaurants in town.

Cindy Dwyer photo

We asked Luigis owner Dave Strojwas for comment. "Absolutely not, we have done our stuff, okay?" was his only response.  Boston Pizza owner/manager Will Menjivar was not as reticent.  "We support anyone who comes here and wants to work, whether they are immigrants or from families that have been here for generations," he said.  "If you walk in our store you would see visible minorities and people you would recognize from Pincher Creek.  Our policy is to not discriminate.  We draw from a large pool."  In fact, when Boston Pizza was preparing to open up in Pincher Creek they bought large ads from all local media seeking employees, and their staff currently is a rainbow of colours and backgrounds, including a significant number of people born and raised in the area.

Menjivar said the sign had an effect on some of his staff.  "A lot of people are offended.  They work as a team here."  He said he doesn't blame Pincher Creek for the actions of one business owner.  "I personally think this is a great community."

* "I was angry when I saw it," said Boston Pizza employee Cindy Dwyer. Dwyer was one of the people who originally contacted us and has posted the sign on social media. "It just should have been worded differently, maybe. We have so many people who live in our town now that look 'foreign'. Many are business owners," she said.

"If I walked by that sign as a visible minority, as a Black, Filipino, or Chinese person in this town, I think I would almost be scared," Dwyer said. "I found that so offensive. It's rude to so many in our community. Somebody had to stand up about this."

A selection of comments from our Facebook page ( also reflects comments we've heard off the record over the last couple of days.  Spelling and typos have been tidied.

"Wow.... that's very ugly..... racist 'n hurtful," said Trudy Croweagle.

"(A) sign like that just screams desperation of a failing business," said Jeff Kaupp. "They can't produce a good product or service to bring people through the doors so they resort to "localize" hiring propaganda. If a business produces a good product and service then they have my business regardless what nationality work there, that's how capitalism works. And furthermore every big chain in town has a mixture of Canadian and foreign workers so this is all lies in my eyes."

Robin Reeve concurred with that point of view.  "I feel that this sign is intolerable!" he said. "Just because your business is failing due to competition is no reason to resort to racist slander and propaganda. Step up your game and actually provide a better product than the other brands."  After adding a negative review of Luigi's prices, quality, and service, he added "The town of Pincher Creek needs to do something about this type of so called advertising! This sign certainly makes for a hostile greeting for our visitors."  Later Robin Reeve added "This is not the first offensive sign Luigi's has put up since BP's came to town. I do hope that it will be the last!"

"This is very bad. Would never go to this restaurant. Hope everyone in Pincher Creek will boycott this place. Just plain ignorant!" said Shelley Wilson Collins.

"I think it is terrible and a huge display of disrespect," said Roxane Baalim. "I won't be supporting a business that operates with those principles."  "The sign has been up like that for almost 2 weeks...shameful."  I asked her if she was sure it had been up that long.  "I'm sure because I was offended when I saw it and that was right after we had been on holidays. Only difference was it didn't have the comment about the Big Chains at that time. That's been added since then."

"That is awful," said Jessica McClelland. "Not quite the way I want Pincher Creek be put on the map. Embarrassed to say that I am from the same town as this person."  She later addedd "I don't think any businesses in Pincher Creek don't support local staff! The help-wanted signs that are up everywhere, and the businesses closed down due to lack of staff, go to say a little something about who wants to be working. And this sign says nothing about Alberta beef… To me it screams racist."  "Isn't this just a welcoming site for all of our travelers driving in on highway six to Pincher Creek.  This really says welcome to the community… You know welcome, as long as you are the right color, race or ethnicity."  McClelland also commented on Luigis' refusal to speak to the issue.  "That's even worse.... Seriously, if they're going to have the balls to put a sign like this on the highway… Go on record and stand up for what you believe in!"

"I am also curious what they would do if a world renowned chef came and offered to cook at Luigi's," said Shani Litchfield. "Are they discriminating against anyone who isn't Canadian? Do they know that most Canadian families have immigrated here? Time for a history lesson."

"Kind of shocking to display such comments," said Stacey Kettles. "Superior food and service brings in my business, not the ethnicity of who works there."

Some support was shown for Luigis as well. "I totally support this small town restaurant that uses local staff and supports Alberta beef," said Brandy Hale. "Finally someone isn't afraid to speak their mind while SOOOOO many others mutter the same thoughts under their breath!"

"I personally think that they could have worded it a bit differently so it didn't sound so racist but it is what it is, just hoping Luigis doesn't lose business because of it," said JT Reeve.

"Whoopty do just words in my opinion!" said Chad Shea. "But I see it has made a lot of people upset! Sign should be changed, I will agree with that! But again the words are just one person's opinion."

"I understand the laws are vague regarding the rights of the TFW's (Temporary Foreign Workers) and many employers are taking advantage of it to a point were they gain from extremely cheap labour which isn't fair to current citizens and TFW's alike," said Andy Funk. "The opportunities are there for citizens first and work and living conditions should be equal across the board. TFW's maintain a low sense of entitlement which in my opinion is rampant in our north American society. Just because a business hires TFW's doesn't mean they have to live 6 people per 2 bedroom apartment. As a former business owner I understand competition is healthy yet tough. I feel the sign is very distasteful in its implication but I read a deeper national issue."


  1. Joe Bean27/5/14

    Okay, so the sign was a stupid idea. But everyone needs to take a breather here. This is just a symptom of a local business struggling under the weight of Corporate Competition. Town council approved through zoning and other arrangements these larger companies moving into our small town as they saw the short sighted benefits of a larger tax base to pay for town services. I don’t think there are many in town who would agree that this was a good decision in hindsight. Businesses along Main Street are struggling, other business have closed. Even the medium sized grocery chains in town are showing signs of decline. With every passing month we have less and less choice of places to shop and eat. I would encourage others to take this as a reminder and opportunity to not only shop at our local store but eat out at the local business that have made Pincher Creek their home.

    1. Anonymous27/5/14

      I don't think you understand what you are saying. As a long time resident of this town I wasn't a bit surprised to see businesses in downtown PC go under. Years of gouging and poor service because there was no competition was what forced them under not "big corporations". What makes a business local?? Is it the people working in it? The name of the business? As long as it is in Pincher Creek I consider it a local business and it deserves my support. The moment racism and bigotry enter my decision making about a business is when I stop opening my wallet to that business. I've always known there was an underlying sense of race discrimination in this town but I didn't realize it would be so proudly on display. Apparently Luigi's should only serve local food provided by local ingredients made by local residents. Ironically the times I have dined in I haven't seen any locals.

  2. Anonymous27/5/14

    I agree with Andy Funk on this. Yes the wordage on the sign was offensive, no doubt and should have been taken down ASAP. However I think it goes back to the issue in Canada with the TFW's. Thing is though is its not as cut and dry as just saying "These foreigners are coming over here stealing jobs from Canadians". A lot of Canadians don't want to and refuse to work for "The Big Chains" because quite simply they don't pay enough. The cost of living vs. wage ratio is too unbalanced. So the way I see it is someone needs to take those jobs to fill those positions and I'm glad they do as we the customers are the beneficiaries of this. Now is this a byproduct of today's youth feeling more entitled to the previous generations and not wanting to work at these types of jobs that seem somehow beneath them? Could be somewhat yes. However I feel it's more symptomatic of our wage discrepancy in this country between better paying government, oil & gas, healthcare and construction wages and low-paying, minimum wage jobs in the food service industry.

    He could have put something more along the lines of "Locally Owned & Operated since 1992" (or whenever they opened). Or even "Proudly Canadian since 1992" type thing. Both of which kind of say the same thing as what he had on the sign, without being so offensive, even racist.

  3. There is no enterprise on the face of this planet that is *entitled* to my business.

    Nor is any business operator *entitled* to succeed.

    As markets change, businesses must learn and adapt or they will fail.

    Successful, respectable business has nothing to do with owning customers.

    It has everything to do with earning them, over and over and over again.

  4. Posted on behalf of someone who wishes to remain anonymous: Why do people think this sign is racist? It just says Canadians. There is no one "Canadian" race. It just means they have Canadian citizenship. If you think it is racist.... then maybe you are presuming skin color and are in fact "racist".

  5. Anonymous28/5/14

    A major cost to any business is the cost of labor. Many employers have sought to reduce costs by offering lower salaries. This can have implication that range from hiring less than skilled staff to requiring a reduction in operating hours or level of service. Any or all of these can cause a loss of customers. Add to that competition for clients and staff from competing businesses. And most significantly, the customer that demands and feels entitled to service 24/7, demands service like royalty but tips like a pauper.

    Compounding the need for cheap labor to succeed is the attitude among youth (under 30) that they deserve a significantly higher salary than the minimum wage and will not work unless they get it. The employer then has a reduced count to draw from.

    Several solutions are possible here. Cajole the public into lesser hours of operation, pay more to achieve staffing levels and train clients to accept this cost or, least desirable, bring in temporary foreign workers. Not least desirable because they are TFWs but because this hides the underlying problems and does not make good business sense.

    We have become expert at getting the best bang for the buck but have not realized yet that we are shooting ourselves in the foot!

  6. Anne Pepperoff28/5/14

    Since when did we start caring so much about "Canadians" cooking our food? Citizenship has absolutely nothing to do with culinary skill. May the best chef win when it comes to flavour.

    Pandering to small-mindedness is a hail mary on behalf of the owner of Luigi's. His business is making the news, but in the worst possible way. Perhaps if Luigi's focused more on offering better service, food, and pricing, they wouldn't have to result to cheap tactics.

    Bring back the days of complimentary warm bread served with garlic or honey butter and salad to start. Offer this town something they can't get at the "big chains" and you'll see tides change. Consumers want the best bang for their buck. May this whole debacle result in better business all around.

  7. Anonymous29/5/14

    Phil Burpee??? We feel a void......

  8. Each new immigrant not only supplies one job's worth of labour, but also demands approximately one job's worth of goods, services, and infrastructure.

    Immigration to British Columbia, Canada

  9. Anonymous29/5/14

    Downtown businesses are dying in many communities. People want quick, easy & convenient. Businesses building on the highway are going to be more visible & in turn more profitable, chain or independent.
    Encouraging big business to come to a small community isn't short sighted, it is a long term investment. If current businesses offer a quality service or product they will be successful.
    Competition promotes better business.
    'Canadians cook your food'? How can this be described as racist?
    Canadian is a nationality, a culture, not a race.
    Is it smart business? Time will tell.

  10. Anonymous31/5/14

    Freedom of speech. Good for you Dave! He had the guts to say what most people are thinking. Pincher has alot more to pay attention to, get done and fix properly instead of a bloody sign.


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