A small restaurant in DeBary has become a tourist attraction and conversation piece, after its owner posted a sign that advises some would-be customers who support President Joe Biden to “take your business elsewhere.”
“I’m getting calls from all over the world,” Angie Ugarte, owner of the DeBary Diner said, after she arrived at work late today, Sept. 2. At her diner in the Winn-Dixie plaza at the corner of Highbanks Road and U.S. Highway 17-92, she found well-wishers, including several veterans, waiting to meet her and order a meal.
The DeBary Diner was closed Sept. 2 because the shop had run out of food the day before and was awaiting a delivery. Word of Ugarte and her restaurant spread like wildfire, as news websites and television networks picked up her story, drawing attention to a possible gathering spot for those with conservative and pro-military sentiments.
“All these people said, ‘We’ve got to come over here and thank Angie.’ We wanted to come over and thank you,” Rod Phillips told Ugarte, as he clutched her hand.
Phillips is a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
A note on the door next to the controversial sign promised patrons the DeBary Diner would reopen Friday, Sept. 3.
Ugarte said her traffic has increased markedly after she placed on the front door a sign denouncing the Biden administration and its handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Ugarte said she was upset and angry about the Aug. 26 suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 13 American military personnel at the Kabul airport, and she blames Biden for not preventing the American deaths.
“I don’t want to make my living off people who have blood on their hands,” Ugarte said when she arrived late Thursday morning. “If you sincerely support Biden, open your eyes and hold your president accountable.”
Ugarte, who said she put up the sign the day after the bombing, said she is not acting from partisanship.
“If Trump were president now, that same sign would be there,” she said.
As she was speaking, a stranger approached and handed her $20, which she at first refused to accept.
“You’re appreciated more than you know,” the man told her as he walked away.
Ugarte said she has received some “death threats and bomb threats,” but the reactions have mostly been favorable — and patrons are matching their words with food orders and cash.
Not everyone was supportive. Online, reviews of DeBary Diner increased exponentially, and some of them from detractors tended toward the absurd, including this review posted on Facebook: “When I walked in they had goats running loose that were peeing and pooping on the floor. All of the staff were touching food with open pus oozing sores on their hands.”
Those voting with their dining-out cash outweighed the detractors, Ugarte said.
“This is our slow season, but yesterday, it was all day long,” she told the crowd, thanking them for their support. “My hours have been incredibly erratic for the last few days.”
“We live in Astor, and we just had to come and see this,” Wayne Loeser said, as he kept his daughter, Heidi, 3, close by.
A woman named Lisa said she had driven from her home in Windermere to visit the DeBary Diner, only to find it closed.
Brian Meddaugh and his wife, Rosemeadow, also were disappointed about the DeBary Diner’s closing for the day. Rosemeadow Meddaugh said she herself has been a victim of the political polarization in the country today, alleging she and a Trump-support organization were banned from Facebook for their post-election activities.
“My personal page and my group — I was de-platformed because I went to the protest [of the outcome of the 2020 election] in Orlando,” she said. “After I posted a video of the protest, when I got back to my car, I was off Facebook,” she said.