02:07 - Source: WBND-LD
Restaurant's mistaken identity causes national controversy

Story highlights

A Wisconsin pizzeria is harassed by people confusing it with one in Indiana

Owners of Memories Gourmet Pizza Co. have gotten angry calls, Facebook posts

Memories Pizza of Walkerton, Indiana, made headlines amid "religious freedom" debate

CNN —  

Two years ago in a less turbulent time, Mike Premeau and Kathy Danke launched a small business, Memories Gourmet Pizza Co., in their Wisconsin town.

The two were successful in getting their line of frozen pizzas, including breakfast pizzas and gluten-free options, in stores across Nichols, west of Green Bay. They grew a base of loyal customers.

But all that was threatened this week when people began mistaking them for Memories Pizza of Walkerton, Indiana, which made national headlines after its owners said they would refuse to cater a same-sex wedding.

People posted angry comments on Memories Gourmet Pizza’s Facebook page and called its phone number to protest. And almost overnight, Premeau and Danke found themselves thrust unwillingly into a national debate over Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“My stomach was in my throat all afternoon,” Danke told CNN affiliates WBND and WFRV.

“All of a sudden, our Facebook page started getting flooded,” Premeau said. “I was shocked. It was like I was a rat running around in a cage, wondering what’s going on here.”

In a cruel coincidence, the flood of outrage began on Wednesday, April Fool’s Day.

“If I’m ever in the area, I’ll be sure to starve to death before I give you and you intolerance any of my money!” wrote one commenter on Facebook.

“I don’t have much of a message, except that I hope your bigotry puts you out of business very quickly,” a man said in a voice mail.

Indiana pizzeria finds itself at the center of ‘religious freedom’ debate

Premeau thinks the firestorm was sparked by people Googling “Memories Pizza” and confusing the two businesses – despite the fact that Nichols and Walkerton are in separate states and almost 300 miles apart.

He and Danke tried to defuse the outcry with a Facebook post saying in part, “We are not that company in Indiana, nor do we agree or condone their words or actions.”

In response, they began getting messages of support on Facebook, along with a few sharp-tongued comments from supporters of the other Memories Pizza.

Premeau said he also got a call from a man whose initial post may have set off the social media storm, apologizing for the mistake. Still, he worries that damage to his wholesale pizza business may have been done.

“This misinformation and this defamation of character could cause me to lose the business over someone else’s identity in another state,” he said.