Beaufort eatery rings ship’s bell and asks patrons to stand to recite “The Pledge”
Chairs scratched the tile floor at Blackstone’s Cafe in Beaufort as every man, woman and child stood Wednesday morning and placed a hand over their heart.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag...” each said in unison.
It’s a tradition that started five years ago on July 4, 2014 at the breakfast and lunch restaurant on Beaufort’s Scott Street just off Bay Street near the waterfront, according to former owner Robert Alley.
Around 8 each morning, current owners Annamaria and Louis Gaudio ring the ship’s bell eight times and ask if customers would like to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with them.
“What we always say is if you would like to join us, you are more than welcome to do so,” Annamaria Gaudio said. “To me, the pledge isn’t about a singular person. It’s for everyone. But if someone doesn’t feel comfortable, it’s their choice.”
The Gaudios bought the restaurant in 2016 from Alley after they decided to move to the Lowcountry from Pennsylvania.
“What I think really makes this place special is we have a lot of locals who come by and eat here, “ Annamaria Gaudio said. “Some come as many as four times a week. People see people they know at other tables all of the time.”
Alley started the tradition of reciting the pledge after a customer said he enjoyed the pledge being said aloud in an Annapolis restaurant he once went to, Annamaria Gaudio said.
“The original owner did a good job of cultivating continued relationships with customers, and we try to keep that going even with new customers,” she said.
Alley started the business as a cigarette shop on Bay Street in 1991. It evolved to sell specialty beer, wine and deli items. Eventually, the restaurant moved to Scott Street, where it now offers breakfast and lunch from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The restaurant will be open regular hours on July 4, according to its Facebook page.
Both Alley and Gaudio said they received minimal complaints about reciting the pledge, and that more often than not, everyone in the restaurant stands to honor the tradition.
The restaurant, decorated in flags from yacht clubs, schools and universities and all branches of the military, is a landing place for both locals and visitors, Alley said.
But the tradition of saying the pledge continues to bring people back, he added.
“I think people really grabbed onto it and thought it was pretty cool,” Alley said. “People come just for that reason.”