Cottage Grove Mayor Jeff Gowing was on vacation the last week in March and when he returned home, it was to messages from local media outlets asking him for comment on Wolfclan Armory's move to town.
The business had drew the attention of concerned citizens after a banner appeared in the window of the old museum building on Main St. announcing Wolfclan's arrival. A small group of protesters had gathered outside, citing the businesses ties to Jacob Laskey who is currently facing charges related to a January stabbing at a Creswell mobile home park. Laskey, whose mother Jeanette is part-owner of Wolfclan Armory, previously served 11 years in federal prison for throwing rocks through the window of a synagogue.
On Monday night, the protest moved into city hall.
Several residents spoke during public comment during Monday night's city council meeting asking the council to prohibit the business from opening. Councilman Jake Boone was the first to say, it's just not possible.
"(The city council) is unable under the constitution, state law or local statute, to decide a business can open based on the words or opinions the owner may have," he said, "It's not a power we have... the path to making this business go away does not come through this chamber."
Councilor Mike Fleck echoed Boone's statement and noted that, if hate speech was being perpetuated by a business in Cottage Grove, he would join protesters in the street. "It's been reported that this is the son and not the family but I will look," he said.
Jeanette Laskey spoke to The Sentinel during last month's protest and said she was not aware of the Facebook posts on Wolfclan Armory's social media that promote books questioning the Holocaust with other that reflect white supremacy and its ideals.
Gowing said he visited the business and was told by an individual there that the store sold survival gear and BB guns.
"He said, 'My son was convicted of a felony for a gate crime but it's not me,' I don't know if he was lying to me but I said it's free enterprise," Gowing said noting that the business was not breaking any laws.
Cottage Grove does not issue a business license other than a used merchandise license for second-hand stores and another for taxi services. Any law the council passed barring businesses based on ideaology, Boone said, would be struck down and taxpayer money the possible source of funds paid to fund judgements against the city.
Resident Annie O'Dean addressed the council and urged the members to view the Wolfclan Armory website she called "concerning."
Venice Mason, who attended last month's protest and says she's since attempted to apologize to Wolfclan for any of her actions that may have been confrontational, told the council that the business represented groups that were a danger to portions of Cottage Grove's population.
After his release from prison, Laskey was photographed with a known white supremacy group.
"I'll cut to the chase on this," councilor Garland Burback said Monday night. "Just don't shop there."