consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A friend sent the link, and it is somewhat perplexing - business hatred over pottery retailing is the published story, suggesting there must be a story behind the story, one the PiPress item leaves untold.

This PiPress link, this excerpt:

The Red Wing Pottery Salesroom, which has been operating on U.S. 61 in Red Wing, Minn., since the 1950s, will close Dec. 24.

Although the store's sales are meeting expectations, owners Bruce and Irene Johnson say they have been harassed and threatened by other members of the city's business community. The couple bought the store nearly two years ago from its third-generation owner, who had said he would close it if he couldn't find a buyer.

"We would never have anticipated the hatred and anger we have faced in this community over trying to revive this great business," Bruce Johnson said in a news release. "We are worn out, stressed out and exhausted from being bullied by a small portion of the business community that seems to have incredible power in this city."

Johnson declined to comment further on the specific nature of the harassment.

Ten salesroom employees will lose their jobs, Bruce Johnson said.

There is additional detail in the PiPress coverage about pending litigation, but with no detail tying it, and the defendant organization and its allies, to harassment of the retailing operation or the family now running it.

The person sending the link by email wrote, cryptically, "I've seen it happen in Anoka, Nowthen, Ramsey, and Cambridge." I am unsure of detail there, and will leave it said that way because I would not want to draw a friend into any potential defamation SLAPP suit posture. Some people can be real quick to run to the courthouse, whether having meritorious claims or not, and indeed, one former Ramsey council member has done just that in suing another former council member, claiming "defamation." People of means can do such things. Defense of litigation, even meritless claims, is a cost burden people of lesser means may find daunting, thus leading to a chilling effect upon protected speech.

Strib has parallel reporting, here, and earlier reporting, here. More cumulative than innovative in describing vague community pressure, and the trademark litigation, Strib coverage still leaves detail of what exactly was at play beyond a business decision in the the ordinary course of business, to close a retail outlet.

Any business must succeed or terminate, and everyone likely has opposition of one sort or another to one or another kind of lawful or borderline business activity in a community, with some people out of business frustrations reacting one way or another.

While before I moved to Minnesota, a business resident apparently was denied some form of business use permit, or had some request to City of Ramsey denied him for some change regarding a commercial property location, and in frustration opened a different business, of an "adult" nature. Litigation resulted involving state and federal court disputes, and decades later an election issue was raised concerning the history of the business location and how city officials elected to react to things.

Clearly a pottery shop differs in lack of "adult" content, yet the Ramsey case illustrates a history of a business encountering sufficient community pressures as to be impacted in a way that changes and/or shuts down a business.

As a hypothetical, consider a vintner or liquor store permit seeker being opposed by community members disliking alcohol related business, and how tastes of a sector of a local population might frustrate an otherwise lawful enterprise. In that hypothetical, who might be right, who wrong; and would/should right or wrong be measured by established legal norms, or by biases of influential persons or the will of blocs of persons having particular belief systems apart from and more severe than abstract governing rules, under a rule of law? If marijuana becomes legalized in Minnesota, might similar problems arise for one wishing to open a medicinal marijuana business? Would the proper term be "community harassment" or "community will" or perhaps even "busybody interventionism," to apply to any influential single person or bloc opposition in such a situation? What are the liberties and rights that should govern?

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