Red's Savoy Pizza owner accused of racism toward customer

Red's Savoy: Tasty pizza. Distasteful views?

Red's Savoy: Tasty pizza. Distasteful views?

UPDATE: Red's Savoy has apologized for the incident, and tells City Pages it has reached out to the customer directly. Read our original post below.

Red's Savoy Pizza has been serving up extra cheesy, thin-crust, party cut pies for more than 50 years in the Twin Cities area. Most people love it. 

Over the weekend, a lot of people of color decided the old-school pizza joint wasn't for them anymore. 

What started the rift was a Facebook post from one customer — ex-customer, now — who described his experience dining in the original location of Red's, in downtown St. Paul. The meal wasn't the problem. It's what came after that mattered.

Once outside in the alley, a poor person asked the patron if he could wash his windows for whatever the pizza fan would "generously" provide. The guy agreed, but says soon after, the "owner comes out talking shit to me." 

They exchanged words, the customer writes, and he later followed the Red's owner, Red Schoenheider, back into the building to talk this out "man to man." (Red owns this restaurant and another on White Bear Avenue; other locations are franchises.) 

Once inside, the customer claims, Schoenheider said "if people want hand [outs] go talk to Obama," and added, "I know your people." 

For some reason this didn't sit right with the customer, who is black. Here's his original Facebook post in its entirety.

The post made the rounds on Facebook, eventually getting back to the people at Red's, who tried to diffuse the situation with a response midday Sunday. "For the 51 years during which our family has operated Red's Savoy Pizza, treating all people who come to our restaurant or live in the community with equal respect has been one of our most important values."

The post goes on to say Red's is "working to understand what in fact occurred so that we can address the situation appropriately." Though, given that the accused racist in this case is the owner himself, it's difficult to imagine what kind of censure the offender faces. What's Red going to do? Send himself to sensitivity training?

This tepid handling of the situation wasn't enough for several non-white commenters on the Facebook post, who say they're taking their pizza business elsewhere. One, a guy by the name of Levi Chapman, writes as if he's the offended man in the situation, using first person to set the scene. Chapman says he was with his kids at the time of the incident, and so took the "high road" in that moment.

"Like I said," Chapman writes, "my entire family came here for years and it ended with the racist remarks that summed up what you thought of 'my people.'" 

The story's one-sided so far, while we await the results of Red's "understanding what in fact occurred." 

But now's a good time to recall that Red has not shied away from off-color commentary in the past. Five years ago, City Pages asked about a "joke" posted in the restaurant, featuring a dog that kills "Muslims sitting on a rug," "illegals wearing Obama t-shirts," and a "Somalian [sic] taxi driver." Here's that joke, reposted in full.

Red's response, when asked directly? "That one's pretty funny."

Someone should ask Red Schoenheider if he's heard the one about the pizza place that lost all its black customers.