How do you avoid getting stung by Russian boycotts? Change your company name

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As consumers withdraw their business from Russian companies in solidarity with Ukraine, they may also cut ties with companies that are not even run by Russians or employ Ukrainians.

When Russia began attacking Ukraine on February 24, the impact sent shockwaves through corporate America. Suddenly, any company with even loose ties to Russia became a target.

Just ask Vlada Von Shats, the owner of the Russian Samovar House, a New York City bar and restaurant that has been serving the community since 1986. Von Shats tells Inc. that reservations have fallen as much as 60 percent in recent weeks. Although she’s only now beginning to see a rebound, the drop in sales hit her staff the hardest, she says. Some of her employees are Ukrainian, she claims. An employee recently lost a niece during the outbreak of the war, while another employee became trapped in Europe while traveling home to Ukraine just days before the outbreak of the war.

Von Shats, who was born in Russia but claims to be a quarter Ukrainian, adds that the threatening phone calls are an insult to injury. “My staff, who answered the phone, came up to me and said, ‘I was just called a Nazi,'” added von Shats. “So I started picking up the phone and people were calling us ‘fascists’, telling us to ‘stop the war’ or telling us to ‘leave the country’.” Von Shats says she instituted security as a protective measure.

Von Shats’ company is one of many unfortunate victims in a conflict they didn’t start. The attendant response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, now entering its fourth week, has been swift for companies dealing in Russian-made goods and still others aided by entrepreneurs who claim to have no Russian heritage at all.

In the days after the raid began, Russia-focused companies operating in the US reported canceled reservations and empty tables. Then came the threats and hate crimes. The Washington, DC-based Russian House Restaurant and Lounge was recently vandalized after someone broke the establishment’s windows and door, according to a report by WUSA9.

To avoid similar reactions and to broadcast solidarity with Ukraine, companies are scrubbing their own company names. A Russian eatery in Texas has shortened its name from “The Russian House of Austin” to “The House,” local news outlet KXAN reports. Stoli Vodka, a Stoli Group beverage brand based in Luxembourg, changed its name to Stoli van Stolichnaya. And New York City-based Russian restaurant Sveta, which has a Ukrainian owner, was battered with one-star reviews, according to Eater. The restaurant decided to remove any mention of the word “Russian” from its online presence.

Although Von Shats says she’s thought about removing the word “Russian” from the restaurant’s name, she’s not going ahead with it. She didn’t name the restaurant to begin with. Von Shats took over the family business in 1993. Because she didn’t start the company, she says, she doesn’t believe she has the freedom to change the name. When discussing a possible name change with her son, she said he told her, “Mom, you are the Russian Samovar longer than the Russian Federation.”

What did change the restaurant was its website: The first thing anyone sees when they visit the restaurant’s website is a photo of the Ukrainian flag that says the restaurant is in Ukraine with its family and friends. Signs are also displayed outside the restaurant that read ‘Stand By Ukraine. No War’ and there is also a Ukrainian flag on display. A bust of Putin kept downstairs next to a bathroom (as a joke, says von Shats) was also removed.

The restaurant recently held a fundraiser in support of Ukraine, which raised $12,000 and will be used for the families of its staff displaced by the war. The restaurant is also organizing another fundraiser for the United Nations Children’s Fund to help Ukrainian children displaced by the war.

“We have nothing to do with this war, we are pro-Ukrainian,” she says. “This war should never have happened, we are anti-Putin.”


This post How do you avoid getting stung by Russian boycotts? Change your company name was original published at “https://www.inc.com/melissa-angell/russia-restaurant-business-boycotts-consumer-backlash-ukraine-war.html”

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