City councilman resigns after controversial Confederate store reopens in Cobb County

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A controversial Civil War and Confederate shop that was closed for months after the owner died, reopened on Tuesday in Kennesaw.

A councilman resigned and a business owner is choosing to relocate after learning the business reopened.

Wildman’s Civil War Surplus has been in business in Kennesaw, since 1971. Marjorie Lyon began managing the store when it reopened.

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“We have an array of relics, artifacts, reference material. It’s not just on the Klan, it’s not just on the Confederacy,” said Lyon.

Ku Klux Klan merchandise is sold in the store and the back of the business is a museum filled with Confederate flags and soldiers.

A picture of a Klansman and a mannequin dressed as one, is also in the museum. A number of items depict Black people in a derogatory way, including balls of African American hair placed next to a box of picked cotton.

Lyon says the two items are just a joke.

“It was brought in years and years ago as a joke,” said Lyon.

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Regardless of the items that are placed inside of the business, Lyon believes there is nothing wrong with displaying what she says is part of history.

“It’s part of history,” said Lyon.

But some residents in Kennesaw, including a longtime business owner whose business is located nearby, disagree.

“My husband always said if that were a strip club they would be handling this. What is in that building is more despicable than what would happen in a strip club. It’s disgusting,” said Cris Welsh who is the owner of Eaton Chiropractic in Kennesaw.

Welsh is upset that city officials signed off on reopening of the business.

“If that business is going to stay… in my heart I can’t and I have spent 20 years on that corner,” said Welsh.

Welsh said that she voiced her concerns about the business when she was a council member, but always hit a dead end.

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“There’s nothing they can do, it’s a First Amendment right,” is what Welsh said she was always told by city officials.

On late Wednesday afternoon, the city manager of Kennesaw, Dr. Jeff Drobney, addressed concerns about the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War Surplus during a press conference.

“We have taken precise steps to ensure that this business complied with all city codes and ordinances every step of the way,” said Drobney. “We treat all businesses the same, we don’t advocate for a business nor do we denigrate a business. They are legally entitled to have a business license and to be open and operational, that’s how we view it. We do not take sides.”

Additionally, a representative from the city of Kennesaw released a full statement on the matter via email:

The City of Kennesaw has issued a business license to Dent Myers Enterprises Inc., doing business as Wildman’s Civil War Surplus (hereinafter referred to as “business license holder”). The business license holder went through the procedural process that is required by all businesses within the City of Kennesaw when applying for a new business license. This process includes on-site inspections by the Cobb County Fire Marshall’s Office and the City of Kennesaw Building Official. The business license holder obtained a Certificate of Occupancy and ultimately a legal business license. Dent Myers Enterprises Inc., doing business as Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, is legally permitted to operate within the city limits of the City of Kennesaw. We are aware of the resignation of councilmember James “Doc” Eaton. We thank him for his many years of service to the City of Kennesaw and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Residents who are opposed to Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, plan to speak out against it during a June 20 city council meeting.

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Michele Newell

Michele Newell

Michele Newell has been part of the WSB-TV family since November 2021. Before moving to Atlanta, Michele worked at TV news stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio and Steubenville, Ohio.