You Are Welcome Here

You Are Welcome Here

Atlanta restaurants make a stand with a sticker

by Paul Calvert

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I operate a restaurant called Ticonderoga Club in Atlanta’s Krog Street Market with my business partner Greg Best. My fiancée, Sarah O’Brien, runs The Little Tart Bake Shop, also in the market. As owners, we are acutely aware of the power of posting a sign in the window of your business. Hanging a sign that proposes restrictions beyond whether you are ‘open’ or ‘closed’ has a cruel and racist history, particularly in the South. After the November 2016 election, we began to see a version of that old prejudice and injustice raise its head as shamelessly and as publicly as one might hang a sign in a window. We wanted to counter the inflamed desire to separate people. We decided to make a sign to tell the public where we stand.

Initially, it was Sarah’s idea. I thought of something similar after seeing a handmade sign in the window of one of Atlanta’s all-inclusive lunch counters: Ria’s Bluebird, a diner in Grant Park. Their handmade sign listed the many different types of people welcome at Ria’s and ended with the cheeky, Southern phrase ‘bless this mess.’ Sarah, Greg and I agreed that a sign reminiscent of the old AAA or Diner’s Club window decals seemed the way to go. We wanted it to be clear and direct, not democratic in the sense of big ‘D’ Democrats, but democratic in its embrace of all people.

We wanted the sign state not that all are welcome, but that you are welcome. The sign had to speak to whomever stopped to read it.

We looped in our two favorite Atlanta designers: Bart Sasso of Gentlemen and Alvin Diec of Office of Brothers. They delivered a clear and classic-looking decal, white letters on a bright green backing. The green was to remind folks of a traffic light and the notion that they are welcome to come on in. We handed out the stickers to our friends in the Atlanta restaurant industry. The stickers are intentionally free. The only trade is that when we give someone a sticker, they have to promise to display it prominently.

The stickers are not for refrigerators or the back of laptops. This is a public announcement of service.

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The response has been incredible. We gave away the first run in less than a week and have already printed another, much larger run. We shipped piles of stickers to businesses in Charleston, Nashville, Denver, and Toronto. Friends have lined up to underwrite additional printings. While we went into this with no connection to a wider movement, we realize that other like-minded people are taking similar action all over the country, and we are proud to be a small part of a broader campaign.

When we open Ticonderoga Club for dinner, we are not just doing business. We are making a statement that the hospitality we offer is available for all people, no questions asked. Posting a sticker in your window is a simple act. Folks in America and all over the world endure and risk much more in order to pursue a life of joy and accomplishment. However, we know how powerful it can be to hang a sign, plainly state your purpose, and set a traveler’s mind at ease. A hot cup of coffee. A warm plate of food. A cold beer. A place where you are welcome.

Paul Calvert is a partner at the Ticonderoga Club, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Cover photo by Diwang Valdez

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