Thief Wine in Shorewood has hosted large events on both sides of the political spectrum.
But how far is too much activity? Is it a sign in the window, or a generous gift to a campaign? If there is media coverage of the support, does that increase a negative impact to those customers who disagree?
Patch asked, and you answered.
Some clear opinions
Jane Gebel Prentice, Shorewood resident, said, "I won't shop at any business that supports (GOP presidential candidate Mitt) Romney, (Jim) Sensenbrenner, etc. Period. With Wick's it was easy. I could tell by their huge Bush sign out front. At the West Allis Cheese and Deli on Oakland, the counter person told me. That presented a quandary, though, because that person asked me to still buy lunch, because the place employs several people, and they are nice."
Nearby Milwaukee resident Carrie Palmer Crossot also "lets her money speak for her beliefs" when she shops, but added: "It is hard in many cases to know what way the wind blows, and I do hate to depend on rumor. To me one way I make a decision is if a private business has a 'no firearms' sign to me it says something about their thinking. I could be way off on that but a person's got to base a decision on something!"
Paul Augustine, a Shorewood High School alumnus whose family is in Shorewood, says “If it wasn't my candidate I would be more hesitant to shop there.”
Something else that becomes divisive are trade organizations. Fox Point resident and Shorewood native Jenny Oechler Haraway said: “It's even worse when the organization you are forced to belong to endorses the candidates you don't support.”
Elisa Miller, recent Shorewood resident, said: “(Politics) is a factor, not going to lie. If a store is locally owned I can sometimes see past it. However, if another place offers the same goods or services, I go there. I avoid big box businesses that are GOP donors. Gas stations don’t get my business when they post signs. They're a dime a dozen. And I remember these businesses long after the sign is down and the elections are over.”
Engagement > rumor
Shorewood resident Michael Halloran described his process in parsing business from political rumor. “I frequent businesses that some people tell me I should avoid (because of political contributions). I continue to patronize these businesses because I appreciate the service they provide," he said. "I am not going to hold the owner's (perceived) political views against him or her. However when a business owner, as a business owner, speaks out actively and seeks to engage his or her business in the political debate, they should expect people to make future decisions about patronizing their business in light of those actions.”
Why risk losing business?
Shorewood resident and native Nancy Peske said, “I can't imagine why a store owner would take a political stance. Why alienate half your customers and potential customers? I tend to patronize stores where I really like the people and they support my community. If the owner votes for or donates money to a Republican, so be it. It's when they're promoting a candidate in the store that I would feel uncomfortable.”
Melissa Ugland, a Whitefish Bay resident and business owner, said it's up to the individual business what it wants to do.
“My feeling is that it's one thing to endorse someone as an individual, quite another to endorse someone and actively publicize it in or through your business," she said. "In my neighborhood, where it is roughly 50/50 politically, publicly endorsing one candidate over another would put you at risk of losing 50% of your business. Most small businesses here in Whitefish Bay would find it hard to take a 50% hit.
"So many people took a direct hit under the (Gov. Scott) Walker budget. Families with teachers or other public employees saw big reductions in take home pay, or lost jobs altogether. The political has become much more personal in Wisconsin, and I think it's become more risky to be publicly politically active if you own a business with a public presence.”
Bill Hindin, a Shorewood resident, said: “It’s good for politics, bad for business (to publicly endorse a candidate). I absolutely think of it as a negative. If there were a big sign out front (gesturing to Alterra in Shorewood) I agreed with, I wouldn’t necessarily shop there. But if it were a big sign I disagreed with, I’d likely never bother to go there.”
Keith Schmitz, a Shorewood resident, also advises any business in the North Shore to be careful not to turn off customers, though he applauds community engagement. “For example, in Shorewood, I see a lot of contractors or sub-contractors parked for days with bumper stickers that are very extreme sometimes, and wonder why those companies chose to alienate potential customers that see the truck? ”
Service, product matter
Janet Reinhoffer of Shorewood said: “If the product is good and the people are nice ... that's the place for me.”
And Abbie Fowler agreed: “If someone were to publicly post support for someone that I don't support, I would hesitate, but, likely still use their services if I thought they were worthy.”
Miller suggested that for her, a personal relationship can even supersede political endorsement. “If I had a good relationship with the owner or employees or felt the product/service were irreplaceable then I'd patronize them despite their political affiliation. If I were indifferent to them/it then I'd find a new business.”
What do you think?
If there is an "offending" political sign tomorrow morning in front of your favorite place to shop, what would you do? Vote in our poll and participate in a discussion in the comment section.