Local business owners: 'We built this'

President's speech prompted Snoopy's co-owner and founder Steve Webb to put up a sign in front of the business that has gained a lot of attention.
July 25, 2012 3:37:46 PM PDT
In Raleigh Wednesday, as well as across the country, outraged business owners spoke out against President Barack Obama's comments that if you own a business, "you didn't build that."

"It's almost like someone just slapped me in the face, it was me that built this company," Raleigh business owner Juan Ponce said.

Ponce was one of a few business owners who rallied at Snoopy's Hot Dogs on Wake Forest Road Wednesday morning to affirm that they did, in fact, build their own businesses.

"You'd be hard pressed in the annals of American history to find another instance where an American president offended so many of his countrymen with so few words," Former Raleigh mayor and North Carolina GOP chairman Tom Fetzer said.

Fetzer read the speech the President gave earlier this month in Roanoke, Va., word for word during the event, to underscore they weren't taking it out of context.

"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own," he read.

But it was the line, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen," that offended so many Americans.

"I didn't take it out of context, I just, I think it was a jab. I don't know why," Snoopy's co-owner Larry Cerilli said.

Cerilli co-owns two Snoopy's Hot Dog restaurants. The President's speech prompted his co-owner and founder Steve Webb to put up a sign in front of their business that has gained a lot of attention.

It read, "MR. OBAMA I DID CREATE THIS BUSINESS, STEVE WEBB."

"I wouldn't have put the sign up if it didn't hit hard and it's the President of the United States, I think he should know better that," Cerilli said. "I think he should know how hard we work."

The Snoopy's sign has received so much attention in the last couple of days that the Romney campaign decided to park a big bus at the location Wednesday morning and use it as the backdrop for one of the 24 'we did build this' rallies in the 12 swing states.

However, not all small business owners heard the same meaning in the president's words.

"What he was basically trying to say is 'We succeed if everyone succeeds,'" said Arthur Gordon, the owner/chef of the Irregardless Cafe.

Gordon founded his restaurant in Raleigh just a few miles from Snoopy's 37 years ago and he thought the president made a good point -- that it takes a village.

"I understand if it wasn't for the grace that someone else bestowed upon me, you know, I would have ended up a juvenile delinquent and probably arrested," said Gordon.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has come out strongly affirming the President's support for small business -- referencing the tax cuts and incentives he's put into place.

Click here to read President Obama's full remarks about small businesses at a Roanoke, Va., campaign event earlier this month.

The sign at Snoopy's was changed Wednesday afternoon.

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