Owner of popular frozen custard shop defends ‘English only’ policy

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MILWAUKEE -- Leon's Frozen Custard has an English-only policy -- a policy some are questioning, and others are applauding.

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 near 27th and Oklahoma on Milwaukee's south side.

Leon's Frozen Custard

Leon's Frozen Custard

Leon's Frozen Custard is a Milwaukee institution -- but the custard isn't good enough for everyone to overlook the controversial policy.

"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 on Tuesday, May 17th, 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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3 comments

  • Andrew

    Good business, bad business, it is HIS business, and nobody else’s. If you don’t like it, mind your own business.

  • NO PC FOR ME

    In my business I deal with a lot of Hispanic people who don’t speak English.
    I think if you live in america you should at least try to learn some basics. I have learned the basics in Spanish, Hello, thank you, good bye, I know how to introduce myself in Spanish.
    However, It makes me angry when I have to press #1 for English. It should be expected that English is used and pressing #1 for Spanish should be the norm- not the other way around.

    You live in America. assimilate or leave. I do my part to make people feel accepted, now its their turn to make me me feel like this is still America.

  • olmon1

    When you go to a country to live, it is expected that you learn the language that is predominantly spoken. If you are a tourist, it is expected that some accommodations will be made ‘In tourist areas’. IMO, a person shouldn’t be granted a residency visa, green card or be granted citizenship unless they do speak English.