By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
The owner of Towson Wines and Spirits in Towson, Md. was caught on camera calling a Black customer a “ni**er” on June 16.
Shaka Pitts, a communications associate for the Baltimore County Register of Wills Office, went into the store, located at 6 W Pennsylvania Avenue, to buy pistachios. He says this was only his second time coming to the establishment.
During his first visit, Pitts says he noticed that the staff was not very welcoming.
“There is never any greeting or salutation—there is no customer service at all,” said Pitts.
When Pitts went to the register to check out, owner Doug Marcus said, “three dollars” and put his hand out for money. Pitts wanted to pay with his phone rather than cash and asked Marcus if he could pay electronically.
Marcus didn’t respond. Pitts asked once more and again he did not respond.
“Even without the racial component, I’m a customer. I’m a grown person,” said Pitts. “Don’t just hold your hand out and
] to speak to me while I’m patronizing your establishment. I felt disrespected as a person.”
Pitts says after receiving no verbal response to his question, he realized he could visually see the scanner for electronic transactions, so he reached over to scan his phone for payment.
“I scan it, I have the pistachios, but then I started letting him know how rude he was. I asked him why he would do that. I’m talking to him and I said, ‘Brother that’s not—’ and as soon as I said the word, ‘brother,’ he said, ‘I’m not your brother,’” recounted Pitts. “I’m old enough to know that when a White man is offended by ‘brother,’ nine times out of 10– he’s a racist.”
Pitts told Marcus he was racist, and they began to argue. Marcus then told Pitts to leave his store.
Pitts complied and pulled out his phone to record a video of the owner urging customers to avoid shopping at the store because he is racist. After filming through the shop window, Pitts opened the door to the business to give his followers a clear view of the store owner.
“I put my phone in the door to get a non-window shot of him. I leaned in and said, ‘Him right there,’ and then he said, ‘F— you, ni**er! You got that?’” said Pitts.
“This is disgusting. Is that the one on 6 W. Pennsylvania Avenue? If so, spread this to his Yelp and Google reviews,” said Julie Williamson-Sapp.
Jeremy J. Walker added: “He’s terrible for that, they need to shut down this establishment.”
One man defended Marcus.
“I’ve been there before. He has Black employees that work there too. Never had a problem with him or anybody else at that liquor store,” said Louis Armstrong Sr.
Pitts said he wanted to publicize the video because he was alarmed by the Marucs’ comfortability in calling him a racial slur in public.
“He’s also licensed to carry. Someone like that is a danger. He’s OK with some conflict,” said Pitts. “That’s why I started pushing the issue — he was way too comfortable and he felt like there would be no consequences.”
Pitts is calling on Black activist groups to get involved and rally around the incident.
“This is a time where I expect something to happen. I need White folks to be physically outraged and to do actionable things. I need Black people whose wheelhouse is activism and protests to get active,” said Pitts.
Towson Wines and Spirits did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.