Facebook Sparks Harassment of F.O.B. Store Owner
The owner of Town and Country's F.O.B. store tells Patch she is being harassed after discrimination allegations and a Facebook boycott of her store. Police are taking the actions seriously, while the mother whose story sparked the outrage speaks out again
What started with an email from a Town and Country mother who felt her son was being discriminated against, has turned into a nightmare for one Town and Country business owner.
(Read Previous Story: Facebook Post Prompts Boycott of Town and Country Business)
A Facebook page alleging discrimiation at F.O.B. St. Louis in Town and Country's Lamp and Lantern Village has sparked a firestorm of comments on Facebook and even here on the Town and Country-Manchester Patch site.
Town and Country resident Shelly Arnold Reynolds said she and her son, Carter, were asked to leave the F.O.B. store by owner Kay Wallace and Reynolds claims discrimination against her four-year-old son who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Wallace contends the two were never asked to leave the store and that she only asked Reynolds to hold her child's hand due to the tight quarters and breakables in the store.
"This is not about descrimination, this is about safety," Wallace tells Patch. "We ask all parents to watch their little ones."
But Reynolds story sparked the creation of a Facebook page to boycott F.O.B, although Reynolds tells Patch she did not create the page, and it began a firestorm of comments that have spread online and across the country.
Wallace said she and her employees are now being harassed and she has even gotten the police involved.
"Because the girls here (at the store) were kind of worried that someone would come in and do something, so I called them and asked them if they'd drive by," Wallace tells Patch.
"The bottom line is we will investigate any type of threat made to any person," Town and Country Police Captain Gary Hoelzer tells Patch. "People may not like the practice of an individual, but you can't threaten them. That's illegal and then you cross the line and become the criminal. We'll be diligent. We'll try and track these people down and get IP addresses of those making threats if we need to."
In addition to the comments online, Wallace said she has received harassing phone calls with people cussing at her and store employees and she has had people come into her store and lash out.
"We had school teacher walk in here and scream, 'You are despicable, you are despicable!'" Wallace said. "It's just so bizzare. Who would do that? Who would call us and curse, or who would walk into a store and scream? What kind of environment do we live in today? We have people calling from Boston, all over the country."
Wallace said people have even made harassing phone calls to the owner of Details, a store located next door to F.O.B.
"How does it escalate to the point where they post a website to destroy a person's business and put them out of business. It's their livelihood. Doesn't that seem like something's missing here. It just seems like something's wrong. A person perceives they are insulted and they just put you out of business and destroy your livelihood?"
Although it's still unclear who created the Facebook page causing all the controversy, Wallace still holds Reynolds responsible for the attacks on her and her business.
"They call it cyber-lynching. How do you combat something like that? It would not have occurred if she had not written her email," Wallace said.
Her real concern is not for her safety, it's for her livelihood.
"The ultimate goal here now is to destroy someone's business," Wallace said. "I just look at it like this, If somebody's going to take a gun out and shoot me, they're just going to take a gun out and shoot me, there 's nothing that I can do," Wallace said. "All these people who jumped on the bandwagon, that's really disturbing, the climate that we're living in. And if it can happen to me, it can happen any small business owner."
Reynolds maintains that her account of the incident inside the F.O.B. store is accurate and reiterates she did feel like her son was being discrimiated against, but she tells Patch the point of sharing her story in her email was not to spure a firestorm of harassment against Wallace.
"I, too, have gotten harrassed over this. People who do not believe that I should have been in the store with a 4-year-old, much less a 4-year-old with a wallker, " Reynolds tells Patch. "I was told I was using the disability card to gain 15 minutes of fame."
However, Reynolds said that is not the case. She said her point of writing the original email that sparked the Facebook page was only to raise awareness to what she said happened.
I feel at this time that I've gotten my message out and how I feel I was treated in the store," Reynolds said. "People's actions speak louder than words. You can say that you are handicapped accessible, but that doesn't mean you are going to make their stay in your store pleasant. You can make sure they don't come back again by treating them certain ways. And people get away with it every day because you can't prove it."
Reynolds said one of the most upsetting parts of this issue that has come up is that people have commented online that she should not have been in that store.
"I want to shop in those places. I shop at small businesses. I prefer to shop at a mom and pop store any day rather than a chain. I try to support the community and small business owners. I was there to support small business," Reynolds tells Patch.
She does not wish any harm to Wallace or her business, but felt it was important that no one else be treated the way she said he son was treated.
"I don't wish any ill will on her or her store, I don't agree with her having been harassed and I do not agree with her being threatened. I never asked anyone to do that and I don't know anyone who did that. I don't know the person who created the F.O.B. (Facebook) page and no one I know, knows who wrote it," Reynolds said. "This is her bread and butter and how she makes a living. I don't want her livelihood to be taken away from her. I just want her to know how she made us feel."
And Reynolds said that has always her goal, not hurting Wallace, but helping her son.
"That's what I am trying to make people aware of. I want Carter to grow up and hold his head up high," Reynolds explained. "He should be able to participate fully in apects of life without being hassled."
Wallace tells Patch despite all of the harassing calls, she is also receiving calls of support from friends and other small business owners.
"Our phone has not stopped ringing from other people and small business owners telling us how they could not believe what's happened," Wallace said.
She adds that her attorney has also suggested she sue for slander and defamation.
"I was told that we definitely have a lawuit because it is definitely slander, someone trying to destroy your business, but I have not even thought about that really."