A New Jersey knife shop garnered severe backlash after a sign posted in its window asked customers to ‘speak English’ or pay an extra $10.
Cutter’s Edge, a small knife and sword sharpening businesses, has sat in Clifton, New Jersey, since 1975 and remained as the city’s demographics shifted over nearly 50 years.
Owner Dave Feinberg, 71, said he’s gotten along well with many of his new Latino and Arabic neighbors, but some were outraged after he hung a controversial sign outside the shop.
‘Speak English or Pay $10 Extra,’ the scraggly, handwritten sign read.
Clifton Council member Rosemary Pino criticized the note by saying ‘messages like this put us back centuries.’
Dave Feinberg of Cutter’s Edge (pictured) has received a wave of angry voicemails after he placed a controversial sign outside his store
The sign read ‘Speak English or Pay $10 extra’ and was hung in the store’s window about three weeks ago (pictured)
But according to Feinberg, he was surprised by the swift criticism and told New York Daily News that he wrote the sign after becoming frustrated with a Spanish-speaking customer.
‘I had an impossible time understanding somebody, and the communication between this guy and myself was virtually none, and I tried,’ he said.
‘And he made no attempt to communicate with me in a language I understood.’
He admitted that his irritation got the best of him, but denied being discriminatory or racist.
Dave Feinberg (pictured) said he wrote the message after struggling to communicate with a Spanish-speaking customer in Clifton, New Jersey
‘I guess the frustration factor got to me, but it had nothing to do with speaking English or Spanish or any other language,’ he told the publication.
‘It was about when we’re here, we are able to understand each other.’
Feinberg added that he didn’t think the sign would offend anyone or cause such a reaction.
‘I thought it would be laughed off, pretty much, I didn’t think it would insult anybody. I didn’t think I was stepping on anybody’s toes,’ he said.
The sign attracted little attention at first, but over Labor Day Weekend a resident snapped a photo and shared it to social media.
When Feinberg opened up shop on Tuesday, he was hit was a flurry of irate voice messages from all over.
‘All hell broke loose,’ said Feinberg. ‘I’ve been getting phone calls from all over the place, I’ve had people walk in and tell me they were going to close my business down.’
Feinberg (pictured): ”I’ve been getting phone calls from all over the place, I’ve had people walk in and tell me they were going to close my business down’
Regular customers of Cutter’s Edge have even distanced themselves and condemned the sign.
‘I’ve had calls from them, that they said “oh, you’re a racist, I’ll never come back again.”‘
Social media users further disparaged the sign – and Feinberg – in shared replies that tagged politicians like Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Cory Booker.
‘Shut them down for being racist pieces of s***,’ one Twitter user wrote. ‘Racism is not welcomed in NJ!’
Another resident noted that he lived by Cutter’s Edge and said he’s avoided the shop.
A number of residents and critics have condemned the sign on social media for being discriminatory
‘I live 2 min from here and [to be honest] I’ve never been there I ignore establishments like this,’ he wrote. ‘Not my problem people choose to be ignorant.’
One woman added: ‘This is disgusting! They deserve a huge fine for this!’
Similar messages were left on the shop’s Yelp page as some people ‘review-bombed’ Cutter’s Edge with negative one-star ratings.
One person said they live near Cutter’s Edge and noted they ‘ignore establishments like this’
Social media users tagged New Jersey officials in posts that sough to condemn the sign
‘Racist owners who are being boycotted, enough said,’ one person wrote. ‘Go somewhere else and buy from people who have morals.’
Another reviewer warned others that ‘ANYBODY with a parent, sister, friend or associate who speaks another language should feel enraged by this.’
‘I’d rather go to a business that fully understands we are living in a country where 350 different languages are spoken and nobody should be charged for simply that.’
Feinberg later removed the sign and replaced it with a hand-written apology hung in the same spot.
‘Sorry about the speak English sign,’ it read. ‘[Please accept out heartfelt sadness it may have caused.]’
Feinberg later removed the initial sign and replaced it with an apology (pictured)
Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, told NorthJersey.com that she planned to file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.
But Feinberg also had his fair share of supporters, with some calls applauding him and noting it was ‘about time someone spoke up.’
Mayor Hector Lora of Passaic argued that Feinberg was within his rights to post the sign.
Lora’s parents were immigrants who came to the US as non-English speakers and Passaic, just 10 minutes from Clifton, is a heavily Hispanic city.
‘I believe everyone should understand and speak English in America, and there is a process,’ Lora told NBC New York.
Although Feinberg has received a lot of backlash, he claimed to have also gotten support and praise from people who noted ‘it was ‘about time someone spoke up’
Lora admitted that he doesn’t completely agree with the sign, but decried ‘cancel culture’ against Feinberg’s freedom of speech.
‘What I get concerned is the escalation. We’ll stand in front of a business and shut it down because I didn’t like his sign,’ he said.
Per the US Census, Clifton in 2019 reported that 37 per cent of the population was Hispanic or Latino, while 45 per cent was white alone.
There’s been an uptick in Arabic-speaking residents in recent years, and local schools have dozens of different languages spoken inside students’ homes.