An ice cream shop in Ocala, Florida thought it would be a clever marketing tactic to have an employee dress up as an ice cream cone and stand out in the parking lot with a sign advertising their goods. Little did they know!
Managers and staffers at the two-month-old Ice Cream Family Corner and Sandwiches say that many townsfolk have avoided their shop because of the ice cream cone man, whom they've mistaken for a Ku Klux Klan protester. The Ocala Star-Banner reports:
Liza Diaz, who manages the store... said an employee at the bank where she does business told her a co-worker was so frightened by the white dollop patrolling the street corner that she called her husband crying and refused to drive through the intersection.
"One (customer) told me, 'I had to think twice before coming in here because I thought it was KKK,' " Diaz said.
Diaz is from Puerto Rico and had never heard about the KKK until a reporter informed her about the group. The shop owners are named Jose Cantres and Jesus Diaz, which seems to disqualify them from KKK membership. Photographs show that the men who wore the foam ice cream cone costume—which features a hole cut out for the wearer's face to show through—had brown skin. Also, KKK robes don't usually come with sprinkles.
So how could anyone conclude that Ice Cream Family Corner was some kind of white supremacist operation? The Star-Banner offers a credible hypothesis:
The costume tends to sag around the wearer's shoulders, and the waffle cone is mostly obscured by the sign the mascot holds in front of him. So to a motorist who gets only a glance cruising past at 40 mph, it can—and apparently does—look like a menacing Klansman.
Central Florida boasts a number of active KKK chapters, so it's certainly not unreasonable to assume—from afar—that a person who shows up in an Ocala parking lot with a white pointy thing on their head is a KKK member, or is pretending to be one in order to intimidate people. In 2004—not that long ago!—the Star-Banner reported on the case of two teens who told a sheriff's detective that they wore KKK-like outfits to frighten an African-American bus driver. Also, from Wesley Snipes' 2007 tax evasion court documents we learned that almost one-quarter of Ocala residents said in a survey that burning a cross on someone's lawn—a popular KKK pasttime—shouldn't be a federal crime.
Ice Cream Family Corner isn't using the ice cream cone mascot anymore.