The owner and manager of an upscale shoe and clothing store in Boston’s Back Bay has been sued after allegedly discriminating against shoppers because of their race, national origin, and immigration status, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
Hicham Ali Hassan, who uses the first name Sam, is facing state civil penalties for discriminating against people of color and requesting immigration status of some customers, African American and Middle Eastern people in particular.
Many have suggested it ironic given Hassan’s name, which is Arabic, is accused of refusing to let black customers in and throwing out customers that appear to be from the Middle East.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. AG Maura Healey, Says Hicham Ali Hassan, AKA Sam Hassan, Has a Pattern of Race Discrimination Against African-Americans & Middle Easterns
The AG filed a complaint alleging Sam Hassan as he prefers to be called, the owner and manager of The Tannery, “violated the state’s Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act by denying service to an African American man and a Middle Eastern woman shopping in the store based on their race, national origin, and/or immigration status.”
The AG’s Office alleges that the experiences of the two victims are examples of a larger pattern of Hassan’s discriminatory treatment of certain customers.
“This kind of discrimination has no place in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “My office will take action to protect members of the public from businesses that engage in discriminatory conduct, which harms both individual victims and the entire community.”
The AG’s Office said it “has reason to believe that the experiences of the two victims are part of a larger pattern of discrimination.”
2. Hassan Blocked a Black Man From Coming in His Store While White Customers Shopped, Saying he ‘Didn’t Want His Kind’
According to a December 2017 complaint, an African American customer tried to enter The Tannery to shop around 20 minutes before closing, the AG said. “Upon entering the store, Hassan allegedly approached the victim and asked him, ‘What’s up brother man?’ and prevented him from fully entering the store.”
The man asked Hassan why he was denied entry “while other white patrons were allowed to enter and shop, the defendant told him that ‘he did not want [his] kind in [the] store.’”
The AG says “Hassan allegedly repeatedly told the victim he was not allowed to shop in the store and implied that he did not have enough money to shop at The Tannery. Hassan then allegedly directed the victim to the door, and told him he didn’t want his money and to shop elsewhere.”
3. ‘I Love Trump!’ Hassan Told a Middle Eastern Woman Trying on Boots Then Said, ‘Get Out,’ he Didn’t ‘Trust Her People.’
Also according to the AG’s complaint, in March 2017, Hassan repeatedly asked a customer of Middle Eastern descent where she was from. Instead of helping the woman, who had been trying to ask about a pair of boots, Hassan allegedly told her, among other things, that he does not trust immigrants and “I love Trump! I am glad he is going to get rid of all the immigrants.”
The victim decided she no longer wanted the boots after hearing these comments. As she was exiting the store, Hassan allegedly shouted at her to get out and that he didn’t “trust [her] people.”
4. The Tannery Facebook Has 63 Reviews, Many Call Out Terrible Customer Service & Discrimination But Not All
More recent reviews are commenting on the case filed by the AG, but not all.
“Got a jacket for my niece for $950 brought it home when my niece tried it the jacket did not fit her right. Had the receipt but took the price tag off. Went back and was treated like garbage. The woman who works there told us ohh so sorry you took the price tag off. We can’t help you!!!! Really!!!! We just bought the jacket and have the receipt all we wanted was another style that fits her better. We left they kept our receipt. No worries I have plenty of contacts with the local TV stations Fox 25, NBC here I come. Consumers stay away!!!!”
But mostly it’s comments like these:
“As per other reviews, the owner of this establishment is insanely racist, which is a bit ironic given his name,” wrote one reviewer.
“This man should be deported and I hate to think that his employees have been told to treat people in the same manner in order to keep their jobs. There is no room in this country for an Immigrant to bring over his own hatred and baggage and for that he needs to GO!!!! Deport him. We have enough hatred to deal with without new ones coming in.”
“When you’re a racist sexist bigot .. karma will eventually catch up and kick you in the ass! The owner and his staff are obviously vile backwards ass specimens.”
But there’s this: “So many designers available in one spot – and a huge half-off sale?!!! Perfecto!”
With a comment added: “And all the racism you could ever want.”
5. In Business for 40 Years, Hassan Filed For Bankruptcy Last Year, But Nephew Tarek’s Shoe Business is Global
Hassan filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2017 and among his creditors was Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, and Valentino.
According to Footwear News, Hassan described his business as “Boston’s largest independent retailer specializing in men’s and women’s footwear, designer apparel, outerwear and accessories.”
The industry publication also did a lengthy interview with Hassan in 2013 where he says he and his nephews Talal and Tarek Hassan, preside over a “retail franchise that’s grown from a single leathergoods and boots store on Harvard Square to four destination shops under two nameplates in the Boston area, plus a thriving e-commerce business, with plans to expand even further.
But at the heart of the enterprise is a respect for family, a fearlessness for trying something new and a deep love of retail.”
It has a popular Instagram page with more than 400,000 followers and some interesting marketing techniques. Tarek is married to “Colombian beauty Adriana Hassan” and he is described as the “retail king Tarek” in a story about the tony ‘Story Book Ball’ in Boston in 2016. It’s not clear if he is still in business with his uncle who gave him his start.
Footwear News reported on the lawsuit Thursday.
According to the attorney general, not only must Sam Hassan “comply with the law,” the court should “award the victims with compensatory damages and assess civil penalties.”
The Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law makes it unlawful for any business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to distinguish among customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law prohibits discrimination with respect to both admission into, and treatment within, places of public accommodation. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.
This case is being handled by the AG’s Civil Rights and Civil Investigations divisions.