By Rebecca Gaunt
Kennesaw citizens returned to City Council Monday to protest the decision to allow Wildman’s Civil War shop to reopen on Main Street.
About 30 people came to speak and hold up signs that said “Take the KKK out of Kennesaw” and “Don’t Harbor Hate.” This was not the first time Wildman’s dominated the public comment portion of the meeting without being on the agenda in recent months.
Resident Mary Miller called the shop a “wound in the heart of the city.”
Cassandra Greene’s grandson attends Kennesaw State University.
“I had a friend that went in and some of the things that she saw, she came out crying,” Greene said. “I don’t think that our young people, and you have an entire university of diverse students at Kennesaw, I don’t think that they should have to know that on Main Street in your beautiful town there is a place that represents hatred toward anyone.”
Madelyn Orochena, a candidate for the vacated Post 1 council seat, addressed the Council.
“Preserving history so that future generations may continue to learn from it only serves the greater good. Fortunately there are many excellent examples, across the country and across the state, of history being preserved and presented with decency,” she said, before listing several history museums.
“Unlike these examples, Wildman’s store is a textbook example of indecency. Since the store opened in 1971, the store has been a stain on our city. A klan robe and a noose displayed prominently, alongside racist jokes that are presented as if they’re still meant to be funny,” Orochena continued.
For the past few weeks, citizens have been attending meetings to question the city about how the Wildman’s building passed inspection. Other downtown business owners said they don’t believe Wildman’s is being held to the same standard as far as safety, signage or flags displayed.
“The city has a right to rescind this business license, not because of the racist messages this business broadcasts, but because it’s not complying with a number of city codes–the same codes that the city does not hesitate to enforce against other businesses,” Jeanne Young said.
David Blinkhorn, another Post 1 candidate who previously served on the Council, said he plans to look into the code complaints if he is elected.
“I’m embarrassed for this City Council because so many citizens spoke out on a topic they’re passionate about. No one on the Council, or even the mayor, had the courage to respond or acknowledge that they were even here,” he told the Courier.
At the June 20 meeting, council member Trey Sinclair suggested forming a committee to reexamine city codes and ordinances, but that proposal has yet to appear on an agenda.
Jason Acree, also a Post 1 candidate, was at Monday’s meeting.
“It is a hard store to have downtown, especially when it’s been there for 40 years. How do you manage that and deal with that?” he told the Courier. “There have been people in conversation with the city manager and some other folks that refute that there are ordinances being broken. There’s some information or misinformation that’s out there, so let’s take time to understand it. If they are not abiding by ordinances, then the city has a responsibility to enforce those…but if it is, then we just have to have the conversations with the store owner and work it from there.”
Council member James “Doc” Eaton resigned in June after new owner Marjorie Lyon was granted a business license to reopen it. The original owner, Dent Myers, who owned and operated the shop since 1971, died at age 90 in January.
Lyon didn’t attend the meeting, but she commented on the Facebook stream.
“The arrogance and superiority of some folks! Wow!” she wrote.
Cris Eaton Welsh, a former council member and Eaton’s daughter, recently sold her building and moved her chiropractic practice outside city limits in protest of the store reopening. She also pulled her Swift Kids running group out of the city.