Less than a week ago, east-end Toronto flower shop owner Andy Sue reached out to Global News looking to discuss a “surprising” encounter with a customer.
Sue, of Chinese descent, was born and raised in Toronto, so he was perplexed when the customer at The Flower Centre began to ask non-floral-related questions.
“She asked me if I had been to Wuhan. Of course, I said no. And then she asked me, ‘has any of my family been there? Has anyone travelled there and come back recently?’ And I said no, we’re all here in Toronto. And she started expressing her views,” Sue said.
Even though health experts emphasize the risk to Ontarians remains low, the new coronavirus is causing fear — prompting Mayor John Tory, along with members from Toronto Public Health, to hold a press conference at City Hall this past Wednesday condemning the stigmatization of the Chinese-Canadian community.
“We can’t let fear or ignorance triumph over our values of community, understanding, respect and rejection of discrimination,” Tory said.
When the Global News story of Sue’s interaction with his customer was shared to Facebook groups in the city’s Beaches area, David Brown, owner of “Fearless Meat” on Kingston Road, just a few blocks from Sue’s shop, saw the post and responded with a “fearless” idea.
“Anybody that goes into Andy’s store Friday, Saturday or Sunday this week and buys — even if it’s just a petunia — they can come into our restaurant and exchange (the receipt) for one of our 6 oz. certified Angus beef burgers,” said Brown.
Almost 2,000 Facebook likes later, Sue has had his busiest flower-selling weekend, surpassing Valentine’s Day.
“I can’t say it enough — thank you, Dave — you’ve saved January. It’s really touching,” said Sue.
Despite the falling snow on Sunday, customers from as far as Mississauga and Mimico continued to pour into “Fearless Meat” throughout the afternoon.
“I actually saw on Facebook, the post that the owner of ‘Fearless Meat’ made about some of the negative treatment that the flower shop got and we wanted to support,” said one customer.
Another told Global News, “I went to Andy’s yesterday and bought $50 worth of flowers … you can’t justify not going into an Asian business just because of a fear.”
Sue said the outpouring has been “surreal” and a “truly humbling experience.”
Four Canadians — all but one located in Ontario — have been diagnosed with new coronavirus since Jan. 25.
The viral illness has claimed 304 lives in China and one in the Philippines.