Eskimo Joe's in Stillwater (copy)

Eskimo Joe’s, 501 W. Elm Ave., in Stillwater started in 1975. Tulsa World file

An online petition is advocating a change to the branding of Eskimo Joe’s and the Hispanic spinoff restaurant Mexico Joe’s, calling it racially insensitive.

The Eskimo Joe’s logo is a caricature of an Indigenous person from the far northern regions, and the logo for Mexico Joe’s is a caricature of a man holding a taco and a guitar while wearing a poncho and a sombrero.

The word “Eskimo” was assigned to Indigenous groups by non-natives.

“People of color shouldn’t be seen as caricatures or used as mascots,” Tatiana Hayton writes in the petition. “It’s damaging for children to see themselves depicted as ugly or dehumanized.”

Eskimo Joe’s owner Stan Clark said in a statement that they are examining the expressed opinions “and are evaluating the path forward for our company and our brand.”

“Everything we do is steeped in the tradition of unbeatable guest service, and we are always happy to hear feedback from our customers and our community,” Clark said.

Hayton wrote in the petition that they do not want the restaurant to “go away” but to rebrand the business away from the racial overtones.

“Racism is nuanced, and it can come from an innocent place,” Hayton states. “But this insensitivity contradicts the positive impact these businesses have on the community.”

Eskimo Joe’s has been a staple in Oklahoma for sometime. It started in 1975 in a two-story building in Stillwater.

Tulsa-born actor Cort McCown wore an Eskimo Joe’s shirt in the 1987 movie “Can’t Buy Me Love.” President George H.W. Bush mentioned Joe’s and its cheese fries at Oklahoma State University’s spring commencement in 1990. And ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, a former Tulsa television sports reporter, has given the restaurant many on-air nods over the years.

Clark told the Tulsa World in 2017 that his company employed 550 people. He also spoke with a Tulsa World reporter then about the topic of branding.

“Every time we interact with a customer, we are either building our brand or we’re tearing it down,” Clark said then. “There is truly no in between.”

The petition, as of Monday afternoon, had about 270 signatures.


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