Carousel Skating Owner Faces Allegations of Racism, Mistreatment
FAIRHAVEN — Sherri Desmarais has been going to the Carousel Family Fun Center in Fairhaven for five years, but she says nothing could have prepared her for what she witnessed last Friday night.
Desmarais says that she witnessed the owner, Charlene Conway, line up four boys against the wall of the skating rink and yell at them for what seemed like several minutes, until one of them burst into tears. Desmarais believes Conway was upset because the boys were outside.
After Desmarais told the owner that she hoped the boys' parents would arrive in time to witness the way they were being treated, Desmarais says the owner told her, "Get in your car. Go on the other side of the bridge back to New Bedford, where you belong.” Desmarais lives in Fairhaven.
Desmarais told Fun 107 that one of the 12-year-old girls in her party was upset because the girl was physically pushed out of the building by Conway for not wearing skates, and for wearing a sweater that the owner felt was too revealing because it was off the shoulder. A current Carousel employee verified Demarais' account of the 12-year-old being pushed out of the door.
The account was also backed up by Jessica Rivera, who was the manager on duty that night at Carousel. Rivera says she was appalled by the behavior of the owner and the way the owner was treating the children--and even their parents. As a result, she quit her job on the spot, before the end of her shift.
"This was not just a bad day," says Rivera. "She belittled me all the time, she'd make racist comments and make fun of people."
Rivera says she has witnessed Conway use racist language multiple times in front of her and other employees, including the use of the "'n' word." Rivera says that when describing an employee, Conway said, "Oh, he's so lazy...he acts like such a (n-word)."
More recently, Rivera says that after becoming frustrated with that same employee, Conway said to her and two other employees, "I don't want his black ass in my business anymore." Rivera says that when the group of employees confronted Conway about making racist comments, Conway apologized, but then followed the apology up by saying, "some people act like white trash, others just act like black people."
A current Carousel employee confirmed Rivera's account of the racist language, adding that Conway would regularly body shame skaters in her business.
Social media posts from parents expressed concern about how their children were bring treated at the Family Fun Center. Elizabeth Couto's son was also at Carousel on Friday night. She shared her 12-year-old son's story with Fun 107.
Elizabeth says her son rented a "SkateMate" (a skating aid) for his friend, but when the owner saw him quickly skating away with it, she determined that he didn't need the aid, demanded it back, and refused to refund his money.
Former Carousel Family Fun Center manager, Jessica Rivera, confirmed Couto's story to Fun 107. Couto explains that her son was bringing the equipment to his friend, who is a new skater, and that the owner said if he kept asking for his money back, she'd kick him out of the building. Couto says her son stopped asking, so he was allowed to stay inside.
"If I went to go pick up my son and he was standing outside because she had kicked him out, this would be a whole different story," she said. "I would have called the police and I would have filed on her. She would have endangered him by putting him outside to wait for a parent. I'd have filed a 51a on her as a mandated reporter...she would have endangered those kids."
Charlene Conway has been the owner of Carousel Family Fun Center for over 25 years. Fun 107 reached out to the Carousel owner for comment, and she referred us to her attorney, Paul F. Cavanaugh, who told us that Ms. Conway "denies the various allegations. They are being made by a disgruntled employee. The Center has always abided by labor and employment laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Carousel's position is that they always conduct themselves in a businesslike manner and treat their customers with respect."
The statistics on Trip Advisor paint a more positive atmosphere than what was shared by some of the customers on Friday night, with 67 percent of reviewers rating Carousel as "very good" or "excellent." One visitor from North Andover wrote, "We had a Halloween Party for the family and children on Sat. We had a great time both parents and children had fun. We Gathered Sunday at the Verdean Vets. The entire weekend was excellent." Karen F. had some hesitation about the music and food, but gave it an overall good review, "Great activity. Go often, kids love it."
In an article in the Fairhaven Neighborhood News about the business's 25th anniversary celebration, Fairhaven Selectman Charlie Murphy shared some warm memories he's had about the skating rink. "Twenty-five years, that’s a lot of family fun,” said Mr. Murphy, adding that he remembered having birthday parties there for both his children. “So it’s been a part of my life and my children’s life. So it was good to celebrate with them.”