English-Speaker Says Landlord’s Message Is Clear

Geoff Oldfather, TCPalm.com (Fort Pierce, Florida), August 5, 2007

McKenna is a longtime Stuart businessman who speaks only English.

He says that’s why he’s being kicked out of the storefront on South Dixie Highway where he has run Seacoast Water Care for seven years.

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On July 5—the day after Independence Day—McKenna received a letter from landlord Ivan Munroe telling him to consider another location.

Munroe said in his letter he wants to have “quality tenants serving the Spanish need in the area.”

“I guess I don’t serve the ‘Spanish need,’ whatever that means,” McKenna said.

“I have plenty of Spanish-speaking workers come in here to buy water for their landscaping crews,” he said. “And people in the neighborhood use the vending machines out front to fill their water bottles for their homes.”

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The population of the Golden Gate neighborhood east of McKenna’s store also has become mostly Spanish-speaking.

To McKenna, that’s irrelevant, as it should be. A customer is a customer is a customer.

But all the signs for the check-cashing store and the Mexican restaurant that share the building with McKenna are in Spanish.

Apparently the signs for Seacoast Water Care don’t fit in. They’re in English.

Munroe pretty much admitted that’s one of the reasons he wants McKenna to move.

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Munroe said he had other problems with McKenna: a forklift that was never moved from the front of the store and salt and other supplies in messy piles in an unprotected side yard facing Dixie Highway.

But what Munroe said about prospective tenants is the real clincher.

“Mexican people come in, you know they’re going to stay. You know they’re going to pay the rent,” Munroe said.

I guess seven years in the same location isn’t staying power.

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Munroe is a private business owner, and he can do anything he wants with his property including fulfill his “vision.”

But there’s a double standard, and I don’t think Munroe is a villain as much as he’s the symptom of a bigger societal ill: Try telling a minority business owner to leave so you can bring in a quality tenant to serve the need of the English-speaking population.

You’d have activists organizing protests so quick it’d make the annual snowbird migration seem slow.

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