COEUR d'ALENE - Family of Mayor Sandi Bloem closed a pair of accounts at Sherman Hardware this week, after the store's owner allowed recall supporters to seek signatures to oust the mayor and three city council members.
The decision was a personal one, family members said, and not part of an orchestrated retaliation against store owner John Montandon.
Montandon, who has owned the hardware store at 1010 Sherman Ave. for 24 years, said he has been "dodging bullets" from upset citizens after he let RecallCdA supporters - the group organizing the petition drive - use his parking lot to gather signatures.
"And I think I've got hit several times," Montandon said Wednesday.
He said he has received between 15 and 25 phone calls from upset people since petitioners started using his lot on Sunday, but the only two accounts he closed on Monday were from the Sports Cellar and Lillian Wilkens Interior.
Both businesses are tied to Bloem's family.
"Business wise, it was not a smart move," Montandon said of allowing fellow recall supporters to set up shop in front of his store. "But it might backfire."
Bloem and Greg Crimp - owner of the Sports Cellar for 30 years - said paying off the accounts was nothing more than a family decision.
Crimp, Bloem's brother, spoke on behalf of the family Wednesday.
"People are taking shots at my family and when people take shots at your family, you usually take it personally," he said. "And the same people waving people into his parking lot are the same people taking shots at my family. And I think it would be very difficult not to take it personally."
He said he likely would have decided otherwise had the hardware store simply allowed static signs, rather than permit petitioners to wave signs from the sidewalks.
Lillian Wilkens Interior, owned by Bloem's ex-husband's wife, sits directly across from the hardware store. Petitioners waved signs in front of the interior store on Monday, directing traffic to the hardware store.
"If it were a lesser stance, if it were just taking a side with a sign in the window or taking a side with a political sign in the window, I don't think it probably would have happened," Crimp said.
Lillian Wilkens Interior could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Petitioners Sharon Culbreth and Rep. Kathy Sims said Wednesday they were aware that the business was tied to Bloem, but that they didn't stand outside it to send a message. Instead, they said, it was just a visual advantage for petitioners trying to reach both directions of traffic.
They said police came out to them Monday after the owner called, and they moved up the sidewalk away from the front of the business.
"We're not trying to cause trouble," Culbreth said. "We just want signatures."
The recall effort against Bloem and City Council members Mike Kennedy, Woody McEvers and Deanna Goodlander has been a politically divisive topic in the community since it was launched in early April. It came on the heels of the incumbents' vote to support moving forward with the $14.2 million Phase I of the McEuen Field redevelopment plan. Signs in yards and storefronts are hanging around town either in support of the recall or urging people to "Decline to Sign."
The divide widened this week after some downtown business owners who display "Decline to Sign" signs at their stores began receiving a postcard addressed to them, mocking their stance. The postcard, mailed from Spokane without a sender's name, calls the store owners "servants to the glorious Visionaries!"
It tells them to hang the front side of the postcard as a sign, stating: "Voters not welcome here. Take your democracy elsewhere. $top the Recall."
Frank Orzell, RecallCdA organizer, and Culbreth said they don't know who sent the postcards.
Also Wednesday, recall petitioner Tom Kane said his yard was covered with 12 anti-recall signs. Kane uses his yard, on the 700 block of Third Street and covered with several recall signs, as a place to gather signatures.
"There is a divide, and it's sad," Kane said. "I really mean that when I say my biggest (emotion) is sadness."
Sara Meyer, organizer of the anti-recall group, said it wasn't her group which put the signs in Kane's yard, but she apologized to Kane anyway. Kane notified police but is not seeking an investigation.
"This is not something we condone," Meyer said. "It's trespassing and it's not right."
Meanwhile, recall petitioners were back outside Montandon's hardware store Wednesday.
Montandon told The Press he had spoken earlier in the week with Erika Grubar - Bloem's daughter, also tied to the Sports Cellar - who told him that his decision to allow petitioning would hurt him financially. But Crimp denied any orchestrated plot and said the decision to close the hardware accounts wasn't meant as an intimidation tactic, and that he didn't expect the small accounts they did have would harm the store financially.
"I have a choice to shop where I want to shop," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to stop others from shopping there."
The city of Coeur d'Alene has several accounts with Montandon's hardware store, as does the Downtown Association, neither of which have canceled them. City Administrator Wendy Gabriel said she has not directed the closure of any city accounts based upon a business's position on the recall.
The Sports Cellar, meanwhile, was one of the businesses that received the mocking postcard.
"I hear all the time 'this is bad for the community,'" Crimp added. "I think I have given up on the word 'community,' frankly. I don't think community defines the town as it's divided at this point in time."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect several corrections.