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Mesa wig store gets support after backlash over mask mandate

June 20, 2021 GMT

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — A wig store in suburban Phoenix serves people who have lost their hair from chemotherapy and continues to require shoppers to wear masks to protect people with cancer from COVID-19.

But last month, the shop started receiving harassing phone calls after the founder of an anti-mask group tried to ruin the business by posting the store’s name, phone number and address on social media, the Arizona Republic reported.

Since then, Sunny’s Hair and Wigs has received an outpouring of support from concerned citizens and even a visit from Mesa Mayor John Giles and city Councilman Francisco Heredia.

“It’s just been overwhelming,” shop owner Lisa Memberr told the Arizona Republic.

Memberr said her staff has been inundated with phone calls and visits from complete strangers bringing food, treats and some cash and “just letting them know that people care and that we are not alone in this and that they support what we did and are taking action to show that.”

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The store recently received a check for $1,000 from a woman in New Jersey to help buy wigs for people undergoing cancer treatment.

The Republic reported that the store was targeted on May 28 by Ethan Schmidt, the 23-year-old founder of an anti-mask group who travels around metro Phoenix confronting businesses that still require customers to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while claiming he is the victim of discrimination.

Despite the lifting of local mandates, Memberr’s shop has kept mask requirements in place to protect customers undergoing chemotherapy and have compromised immune systems that make them particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death from the coronavirus.

Schmidt said he had a “medical and religious exemption” and refused to put on a mask even after the manager explained the store still requires all customers to wear masks because some of its customers are undergoing cancer treatment, the Republic reported.

Memberr reported the confrontation and the harassment the store received to the Mesa Police Department and also filed an injunction against harassment against Schmidt in municipal court.

Schmidt did not immediately respond Sunday to a request for comment sent to his Instagram account.

Memberr said the $1,000 donated to her store will be enough to cover the cost of at least six wigs for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Wigs on average cost about $150 although some can cost as much as $800.

Sunny’s Hair and Wigs already offers 20% discounts to people battling cancer.

Store manager Roberta Smith said the shop has received more than 100 calls of support and a dozen cards from people all over the U.S., from states such as Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky and Massachusetts.

Many of the calls have come from people undergoing cancer treatment or who are immunocompromised, according to Smith, who said the outpouring of support “really has kind of renewed our faith in humanity here.”