Kennesaw councilman resigns after city issues permit to Confederate souvenir shop

June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Marjorie Lyon (right), the new owner, helps a longtime customer Mickey Magruder at Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The store first opened in downtown Kennesaw in 1971. When the owner, Dent Myers died in January, Marjorie Lyon vowed to keep the shop open. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Marjorie Lyon (right), the new owner, helps a longtime customer Mickey Magruder at Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The store first opened in downtown Kennesaw in 1971. When the owner, Dent Myers died in January, Marjorie Lyon vowed to keep the shop open. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

City officials: business license issued after required inspections.

A Kennesaw city councilman resigned and his daughter announced plans to relocate her business out of downtown in protest of a Confederate memorabilia shop reopening this week after the city issued it a business license.

Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, infamous locally for its collection of racist souvenirs, closed earlier this year after its founder, Dent “Wildman” Myers, died in January and its business license expired. The store reopened Tuesday.

Councilman James “Doc” Eaton said he resigned effective June 21 after the city manager told him there was nothing the city could legally do to prevent the store from reopening.

“It breaks my heart to have to do it,” Eaton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I said, ‘If you guys can’t do anything about it, I don’t want any part of it.’”

Wildman’s Civil War Surplus displays and sells Confederate and Jim Crow-era paraphernalia, including Confederate flags and uniforms, old pictures and papers with racial slurs, and dolls and statues portraying caricatures of Black people. The store was targeted by a student-led protest advocating for its shutdown in 2020.

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June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Marjorie Lyon, who worked with Myers for years, said reopening Wildman’s “wasn’t a decision. It’s an honor.” Lyon identified herself as the manager. She’s also the CEO of Dent Myers Enterprises, which owns the store, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Lyon said she has received a mix of hate and support from the community, including emails and comments on social media.

“I don’t have any control over someone’s emotional response,” Lyon said. “I’ve heard all kinds of colorful things. And everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”

The store’s prominent location in the heart of downtown has frustrated some city leaders and nearby business owners for decades, some of whom view it as a black eye for Kennesaw’s image. Cris Eaton Welsh, councilman Eaton’s daughter, owns a chiropractic business across the street and called Wildman’s “an absolute hate store.”

“I have been on this corner for 22 years with the thought that once Wildman passed away, that store would go away,” Eaton Welsh said. “It’s not okay.”

ExploreJanuary 2022: Kennesaw Confederate souvenir shop owner Dent Myers dies
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June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw  on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Exterior of Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Kennesaw issued the business license after the store underwent “the procedural process that is required by all businesses within the City of Kennesaw when applying for a new business license,” city officials said in a statement.

Dennis Deal, a longtime customer and friend of the late Myers, said the store is preserving history and has a right to stay open.

“I think it’s everybody’s right to own a business,” Deal, 68, said. “I mean, you can’t deny one and accept another.”

But Eaton Welsh said history belongs in a museum, not in a store.

“There’s a difference between selling merchandise and propagating hate,” Eaton Welsh said.

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June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Customers shop at Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The store first opened in downtown Kennesaw in 1971. When the owner, Dent Myers died in January, Marjorie Lyon vowed to keep the shop open. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Customers shop at Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The store first opened in downtown Kennesaw in 1971. When the owner, Dent Myers died in January, Marjorie Lyon vowed to keep the shop open. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
June 16, 2022 Kennesaw - Customers shop at Wildman's Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The store first opened in downtown Kennesaw in 1971. When the owner, Dent Myers died in January, Marjorie Lyon vowed to keep the shop open. Councilman James “Doc” Eaton resigned from Kennesaw City Council Tuesday over the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War shop. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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