Cheesesteak Shop Renamed, Slur Dropped

After 64-years, Chink's Steaks has been renamed

A Philadelphia cheesesteak shop has officially been re-branded after years of racial controversy over its name.

Chink's Steaks is now Joe's Steaks & Soda Shop. The Tacony joint has been at the center of a racial insensitivity battle over the name's parallels to a racial slur regarding Asians.

"We've had issues over the years, but I'm hoping to put that all behind me and move on," owner Joseph Groh said.

Crews took down the shop's 64-year-old sign Monday and replaced it with a '50s-themed marquee. A sign on the shop's front door read: Same owner. Same 64-year-old recipes. Different name.

The shop's former name grew out of a nickname bestowed on founder Sam "Chink" Sherman. Neighborhood kids gave Sherman the name because his eyes appeared slanty, according to his widow.

Sherman died in 1997. Groh eventually bought the shop, keeping the name until now.

Asian-American groups have long petitioned for a change. Among the groups, the Philadelphia Bar Association which passed a resolution opposing the use of racial slurs in business names in 2008. The resolution specifically cited the steak shop and Groh.

After hearing Groh planned to rename the restaurant, Stella Tsai with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania said she was encouraged.

"We had really worked hard with the community to persuade Mr. Groh to change the name. It was a surprise," Tsai said. Tsai and her organization was among the advocacy groups fighting for the renaming.

Longtime customers were mixed on the name change, but all vowed to support the shop.

"Everybody will keep coming here. It's been around for a long time so, I don't see no change," customer Robert Fox said. "They make great steaks so people will keep coming no matter what the name is."

"Too much PC going on," said Wayne Gentner. "Everybody's too sensitive these days about things like that."

"I'm sorry that he had to change it, but it's not going to affect his business. In fact, it might help it,"  said Dorothy Callahan.

"A lot of people are very, very upset," Groh said. "They think I'm bending to the PC police, but you know, as I said, it was my decision and I feel in my heart it's the right thing to do."

Tsai says she'd be happy to eat at the restaurant now that the epithet is gone.

"I just tweeted let's go eat at Joe's," she said. "I just want to say thank you Joe Groh for coming around. Welcome to the 21st century."

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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