Hackensack’s Fu King Smoke Shop – Should They Change the Name?
Yes, what you’re reading is completely legit.
A smoke shop with the name Fu King has drawn the ire of local residents in Hackensack who don’t want their kids to repeat what they see – let alone hear.
The name “Fu,” from what I gather means “luck” in Chinese, despite the fact that the owner isn’t Asian himself. The lettering on the awning outside the shop has the words "Fu" and "King" separated by a crown.
Still, parents in the community aren't buying it - for a couple of reasons. One is the obvious nomenclature of the business; two is for the influence the business will have on their young minds glamorizing smoking.
This actually reminds me of something I’d seen on Jay Leno’s "Headlines" feature some time ago.
A news story about a fire at a Chinese take out joint had a picture of firemen dousing the flames of the place, which incidentally was named “Fu King!”
Naturally the audience howled upon seeing the picture.
The name — Fu King Smoke Shop — is plastered outside on the awning of the red-lit, bamboo-lined store at 689 Main St. in the city's quiet Fairmount section. The store has not opened yet, but it's already attracting attention from parents and on social media. Residents say it's a thinly veiled profanity and that it doesn't belong in their neighborhood, a block away from an elementary school.
Michelle Tavares, president of the Parent Teacher Association at the nearby Fairmount School said, "It's almost like it's an insult to the intelligence of our community. Do you really think we don't know what that is supposed to mean? That our children don't know what that means?"
Some parents and residents want the city to take action and compel storeowner Robert Reichert to change the sign. Reichert said he received the city's permission to put up the sign, although a zoning official disputed that and issued the owner a summons for failing to get the proper permit. Reichert also said the sign wasn't inappropriate and that Fu is Chinese for wealth or lucky and part of a theme.
"There is a meaning behind it," Reichert said. "It's not just words thrown up on the canvas. If they're offended by reading it, then it's the way their mind is looking at it."
Still, Reichert said he was willing to talk to residents and would be open to changing the design of the sign — which has a crown image between the Fu and King — but he is not willing to change the name, which he said was his company's brand. He said he intends to fight the summons when it comes up for a court hearing.
The store is a short walk from Fairleigh Dickinson University, but the city isn't known as a college town. Reichert said he was appealing to tobacco smokers like himself.
But Ada Lil Torres, who lives in the area, worried that the store would make smoking look cool to kids. "The décor might be attractive to children," said Torres, who has a 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. "It's like putting a candy shop near a school."
Reichert said he covered the window with bamboo so children weren't exposed to the products.
"I'm not doing this to hurt people or upset people, and definitely not to hurt children," he said. "I'm a parent. But we have the right to sell the product."
The city's zoning officer, Al Borrelli, said Reichert did not get a permit to install the sign. He issued a summons to Reichert on Dec. 20, and he is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
Gordon Whiting, vice principal of the Fairmount School, said he was unaware of the sign dispute, but that name seemed inappropriate. Businesses have the right to make money, he said, but he was concerned about the proximity to students.
School board member Jason Nunnermacker said he had heard complaints and hoped the city would act. "The sign is offensive to me. The implication of the expletive word is clear," he said.
The smoke shop will remain closed while the city and the owner resolve differences, Reichert said. The store already is generating publicity, with photos going around Facebook and sparking comments on Reddit, mainly because of the Fu King name.
"We had people lining up at the door to come in," Reichert said, "maybe because it was controversial. But I don't want to open and then have a name change or a sign change."
God bless the numerous parents who’ve complained to city officials – giving Reichert more publicity than he could possibly dream of.
Had parents not made such a big deal about it, I doubt it would have made much of a difference to the scores of children in the community.