Stay open or close? The managers at Fresh and Fresh International Market went back and forth before deciding they’d stay open on the “Day Without Immigrants.”
It was business as usual Thursday at the Nolensville Road market, despite nationwide protests that saw many ethnic stores and restaurants close to protest President Trump’s immigration plans. Many immigrant workers and students stayed home or took to the streets for rallies and marches. By their absence, immigrants hoped to make Americans aware of how much they contribute. But there also were many, including in Nashville, who chose not to participate.
Rosa Bernal, an assistant manager at Fresh and Fresh, said the store stayed open to serve its diverse customer base, which includes both immigrants and non-immigrants. The store sells Hispanic and Asian groceries and recently has started adding Middle Eastern fare.
Some employees, however, did not come to work. “We respect their decision,” Bernal said.
Bernal said some customers Thursday were happy the store stayed open so they could buy things they needed. Others questioned the decision, asking employees if they supported President Trump. Bernal said employees didn’t respond to those inquiries because they didn’t feel they had to justify their decision to stay open.
A native of Mexico who came to the U.S. when she was two, Bernal came to work Thursday so she could train a new worker. “I take my responsibility seriously,” the 19-year-old said.
President Trump began drawing fierce criticism during his campaign for his views on immigration and refugees. His three executive orders issued in late January heightened opposition. The orders include plans to build a wall at the border with Mexico, cap the number of refugees, and temporarily bar citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Across the street from Fresh and Fresh, Newroz Market also stayed open Thursday. The Middle Eastern business houses a grocery, eatery and computer repair shop called Media-tech. Owner Mehdi Misto met the day with a shrug, saying both sides just want to “make noise.” None of his employees were interested in the protest either, he said.
Misto, a Kurdish native of Iraq who has lived in Turkey and Canada, said he understood why some wanted to protest and he let one of his children go to school late with friends from Mexico. But he believes the controversy will fade and America will continue to welcome immigrants. “The U.S. without immigrants is no country,” he said.
A Muslim, Misto said he doesn’t want hard-line Muslims allowed into the country and thinks immigrants should enter the country legally. But he’s unhappy with President Trump’s approach.
“He has a strange personality,” Misto said. “He always wants to prove he’s right and he reacts to every small thing. The way he’s doing it, he’s making more enemies than friends.”
Down the road, two Hispanic bakeries were closed for the day. La Espiga had a sign on its door in Spanish saying it was closed “in honor of all immigrants.” La Dorada had signs on its door in both Spanish and English about standing united.