Conservative kiosk not allowed at mall
08:56 AM EDT on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Beth: BShayne@WCNC.com
The bumper stickers and posters sold at “Free Market Warrior” at Concord Mills are meant to be “biting,” the kiosk’s owner Loren Spivack said.
At least one passer-by found them racist and bigoted, and took time to tell the mall in a letter and a letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer.
Whatever your opinion, the fact is this: At the end of July, “Free Market Warrior” will not be allowed at Concord Mills Mall. The kiosk chain’s owner shared e-mail correspondence with Newschannel 36 that explains that the mall management has decided that the items sold are not “neutral” enough. The lease will be allowed to expire July 31, 2009 without an option to renew.
Spivack, who first leased the space this spring, says the decision came as a shock to him. He says mall management seemed pleased with the kiosk just a few weeks ago.
“Nobody in that mall is selling anything from a conservative perspective. Plenty of people are selling things with a liberal perspective, with a pro-Obama perspective,” he said. “Given that we are in America and not North Korea, we probably should have some stuff on the other side.”
Spivack says he is careful not to sell things that personally attack a politician, and wants a fair exchange of ideas. “The material that I sell is about politics and ideas,” he told Newschannel 36. “It’s all legitimate criticism.”
Concord Mills, owned by Simon Property Group, would not comment for this story, cited a policy against talking about tenant and landlord situations.
Spivack says the company first contacted him about his lease after a letter to the editor appeared in the Charlotte Observer. The author, recent UNCC graduate Jennifer Ibanez, wrote,
““Free Market Warrior,” a kiosk located adjacent to Bass Pro Shops, specializes in memorabilia embellished with pro-confederacy statements as well as those opposing both the government and President Obama. In addition, these products support ideas such as racisms, sexism, and even slavery. While freedom of speech is a Constitutional right it’s difficult not to believe that something just isn’t quite right here.
I find it appalling that Concord Mills, North Carolina’s #1 visitor attraction, would condone such a message to be portrayed by their vendors and can’t imagine how the outside visitors’ perceptions of North Carolinians have been skewed by such an establishment.
It’s hard to stay open-minded when such uncivilized and outdated ideas are endorsed on a daily basis. It’s 2009; please, let’s at least try to put this type of bigotry to an end.”
Ibanez told Newschannel 36 she was so offended, she wrote the mall as well. She says a friend of hers also wrote in. Both threatened not to return to Concord Mills.
The owner of the mall group, Mel Simon, has been a generous contributor to Democratic causes and politicians, including Barack Obama. Spivack thinks the decision about his lease is political.
“If they have decided to make their malls conservative/libertarian free zones, where those opinions can’t be expressed, I do think it’s their right to do that, but it’s our rights to publicize the fact that they are doing that,” he said.
If the issue is about causing offense, he told us, the mall should police other stores. Spivack sent Newschannel 36 pictures of several t-shirts and banners from novelty stores at the mall that were so crude we’ve chosen not to share them.