Sippy Cafe (200 Franklin St.) which opened in January 2021 by Cerina Shao and Judy Zhu, reported an incident last week with a barber and alleged owner of their neighboring shop, Musk Ox, which devolved into racial remarks.
According to Sippy Cafe, the incident began when employees reported that the next-door tenant — allegedly Musk Ox’s Master Barber and owner, Gabriele (though this is unconfirmed) — entered the shop with complaints about an unpleasant smell from the cafe’s breakfast sandwiches carrying over into the barber shop. However, Sippy Cafe owners and staff maintain that it’s highly unlikely, given that there were only a few sandwich sales that day. The communication from the Musk Ox party grew more hostile, with the man in question saying “shut up, China” and “fucking China” when owners called him in attempts to address the situation (Sippy Cafe has provided their call audio in the last slide of the Instagram post above).
For Shao, both the incident itself and response from posting about it have been a bit jarring.
“Me and my partner, we’re generally very non-confrontational people, so for us to to do all this and have it on recording, it really took a lot, because we were even thinking about not posting it,” Shao admitted. “But there’s a story I feel like had to be shared; it was very shocking for us both. Recently, with more of the Asian racism going on, growing up I was the minority, so the most racist stuff I’ve dealt with was about slanted eyes or ‘you eat weird foods,’ so this was also very new for me. It was a very different experience than the ones that I’ve grown up with.”
After posting about the interaction, Sippy Cafe received an influx of community support — complete with multiple sandwich orders — over the weekend, resulting in a line outside the door and countless comments and shares on their posts.
Gabriele did contact Shao earlier this week to arrange a conversation in hopes of addressing the negative comments and reviews the shop has been receiving, though the two have yet to meet up again.
“He kind of apologized, and I say ‘kind of’ because you can kind of tell it wasn’t very sincere. He was saying how the video and the reviews that people have been giving him on Google are kind of destroying his business, and it was a very frustrating event for him and that’s why he reacted that way, but said that he’s not racist,” Shao said.
When connecting with Gabriele for comment, Greenpointers was told that he did apologize for what he said in the aforementioned phone call to Shao, but also claimed that the altercation came after contacting the building’s management multiple times since 2020 to address the smell with no resolution.
Shao also acknowledged that the two businesses have never been particularly happy neighbors, with previous clashes over issues such as cable lines causing them to simply operate in silent coexistence. But the specific altercation in question seemed to happen out of nowhere, given that the cafe has been serving the same sandwich menu since opening a little over a year ago.