MIFFLINBURG — Employees at Wenger's Grocery Store in Mifflinburg are now wearing masks.

The store garnered a storm of criticism over the last week with a posting opposing face masks, as well as stating the LGBTQ lifestyle "spreads deadly disease and sickness." Owner Mark Wenger was unable to be reached on Saturday; it is unclear whether the new mask policy is permanent during the COVID-19 pandemic or whether the change was in response to new guidelines or pressure from the public.

Customers on Saturday had mixed reactions.

"It's a good thing," said Dan Fellin, of Pitman, who was camping outside Mifflinburg. "It keeps the spread of germs down. If we follow the guidelines, we get it done and get it over with."

The sign, which was posted on the store's front door and on Wenger's Facebook page over the weekend, asked people to respect both people in the store who don't wear a mask and those who do. It goes on to cite the relatively low number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Union County and those surrounding it, and questions whether the pandemic is actually that or a political issue. It calls for treating COVID-19 as any other flu.

The sign was not there Saturday and no new signs addressing employees or customers wearing masks replaced it.

Chuck Smith, of Mifflinburg, said he views masks and the coronavirus as another way for the government to control Americans and a ploy to make President Donald Trump lose the election in November. Nevertheless, Smith wore a mask into the store.

"As long as we do what we need to do as individuals, we'll be OK," said Smith about fighting the virus. "I put the mask on out of respect for others. I don't wear it because it's mandatory."

A man, who only identified himself only as George, said he didn't care what the store and employees do.

"A mask isn't going to stop anything, especially the coronavirus," he said.

JanAnn Todd, a Williamsport resident who shopped at Wenger's almost weekly, said she stopped at the store on Saturday morning to check whether anything had changed. She said she was surprised to see employees wearing masks.

"I hope they did it for the right reasons," she said. "I'm glad they took down the horrible sign and I'm hoping they apologize for the comment about the LGBTQ community."

Patricia Arduini, of Mifflinburg, the president of the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society (SVES), said it her hope that the owner did more research and recognized the seriousness of the pandemic rather than being called out and facing a loss of business.

"I'm also still not hearing a meaningful acknowledgment or apology to the LGBTQ community," she said. "It was a very divisive statement and not appropriate in uniting a community.

"The I Am Alliance" scheduled the Mifflinburg Pride Event on July 26 in response to the sign's anti-LGBTQ statements. It was originally scheduled for July 25 but changed to not interfere with a Chicken BBQ to benefit the families of Heather Campbell and Mifflinburg resident Matt Bowersox, who were both murdered on July 10 in Hummels Wharf.

An event on July 25, dubbed the Wengers 1st Amendment Support Rally, is described in part as a "rally in support of Wengers Grocery Outlets right to express their views" on the event's Facebook page.


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