Owner of Popular Frozen Custard Shop Defends ‘English Only’ Policy

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MILWAUKEE -- A popular custard shop in Wisconsin says the only language allowed in their business is English; while some are questioning Leon's Frozen Custard policy, others are applauding the store policy.

Ron Schneider, the owner of Leon's, says there's nothing wrong with his policy, and that it doesn't appear to be hurting his business.

Leon's is located on Milwaukee's south side and is a Milwaukee institution -- but the custard isn't so good that everyone is overlooking the controversial policy.

Leon's Frozen Custard
Leon's Frozen Custard

"Most people that live here are Latino," Jorge Maya said. "I don't think I'm going to be back anytime soon."

This all started May 17 when Joey Sanchez overheard one of Leon's employees interacting with a Spanish-speaking customer.

Joey Sanchez
Joey Sanchez

"She whispered to him in Spanish 'I'm not allowed to speak Spanish to you,'" Sanchez said.

Sanchez was next in line. He also placed his order in Spanish. The employee gave him the same response.

"I'm trying to understand or find the 'why.' I need to hear from him, to hear why he has this policy," Sanchez said.

Ron Schneider
Ron Schneider

Schneider told WITI his employees can only speak English on the job.

"Hey, c'mon! It is America. We've spoken English for a long, long time," Schneider said.

Schneider says the policy has been in place for a decade, and it has never been an issue.

"Any foreign language is going to be a problem. What I'm trying to avoid is when people come up here, get waited on in a different language because there happens to be an employee who speaks that language," Schneider said.

Leon's Frozen Custard
Leon's Frozen Custard

Sanchez said he feels Leon's policy is just bad business.

"If they have the people who can speak Spanish and communicate with the customer better, why not?" Sanchez said.

Other customers said they side with Schneider.

Leon's Frozen Custard
Leon's Frozen Custard

"We do live in America, you know?" Ryan Schmidt said.

Schneider, who points out that his wife is Hispanic, says no customer has ever been turned away at Leon's.

Leon's Frozen Custard
Leon's Frozen Custard

"It's going to get disruptive if we have to become bilingual, trilingual or anything else," Schneider said.

WITI asked Schneider if an employee would face disciplinary action if they spoke another language. He said they would expect a chat with the boss, but they likely wouldn't be fired.

Leon's Frozen Custard
Leon's Frozen Custard

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