A Duluth shop's Martin Luther King Jr. Day sale has touched off a firestorm of controversy.
The store reportedly held the sale the last three years with no complaints, but that all changed Monday with a Facebook post after a man spotted the sign on his way to a march downtown in MLK's honor.
In his post, George Ellsworth wrote, "SERIOUSLY? Anyone care to guess which downtown Duluth establishment seemed to think this was a good idea?"
In a Forum News Service interview, Ellsworth, said he walked past and "had to go back to make sure I read it correctly."
"I was incredulous. I didn't know if it was a prank or what," Ellsworth said.
Ellsworth, who is black, was aware the progressive store was known for its sense of humor. But in this instance, he said, "There's a difference between being whimsical and tasteless."
The store's proprietor, Rachel Mock, said she apologized to anyone Global Village offended with the sign, and eventually took it down after receiving phone calls and complaints online.
"I apologize to anyone we offended. I meant it as a celebration of Martin Luther King and a way to honor him because he was a positive black leader," Mock told Forum News Service.
Mock also apologized on her company's Facebook page. Accompanied by a photo of King, Mock wrote, "I adore this man. That was the spirit behind the MLK Day sale. To those whose feelings I've hurt, I contritely ask your forgiveness. That was most definitely not what I meant to do. I'm sorry."
An offensive MLK Day ad from the organization Mid-Michigan Teen Parties also caught the attention of the blog Afro.
The blog says the flyer shows a photo of King in a black sweater, wearing an oversized gold medallion and appearing to throw a gang sign.
Plus, in 2011, Afro noted, a surf shop in Laguna Beach, California, used a black and white sign with a likeness of King dressed in a black surfer outfit for its MLK Day sale.
The sign said, "RESPECT. MLK Sale. 20 Percent Off All Black Products," according to Afro.
The Duluth shop isn't the only area business to be criticized for its sales practices.
In September, a Wisconsin golf course's Sept. 11 special offered a round of nine holes for $9.11.
The Tumbledown Trails Golf Course apologized for the ad and offered to donate some of the day’s proceeds to the 9/11 Memorial.