Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 1, 2013

Sign in front of store sparks controversy

TRAVERSE CITY — Since the early 1970s, Roy’s General Store at the corner of Hammond and Three Mile Road has used a portable sign by the road to attract the attention of passers-by.

From “EAT HERE — GET GAS AND WORMS” to “IT’S TOO COLD TO CHANGE THE SIGN,” the family-run business tries to use humor and wordplay to attract customers.

But a recent attempt to promote a grill igniter modeled after an M-16 automatic rifle may be a sign of changing times, and more of a political statement. A few weeks ago the sign read: “GET YOUR M16 RIFLE HERE BEFORE IT IS OUTLAWED.”

Store manager Rob Hentschel, a former Grand Traverse County commissioner, said it was intended to be a play on words, “like most of our signs.”

“There’s obviously a lot of hubbub going on with gun control and it seems to be one of the president’s high-priority agendas,” Hentschel said. “It’s something people were already talking about.”

Most regular customers took it as a joke, he said, knowing that the store sells ammunition, but isn’t licensed to merchandise guns.

“They all come in with kind of a grin on their face, ‘Where are these M-16s? You know you have to have a license for that,’” said Rob’s dad, Bob Hentschel. “People aren’t stupid.”

But not all viewed it that way. Rob Hentschel said the store had several inquiries from shoppers about guns.

Roy’s Facebook page said an employee reported an official-looking person entered the store and asked questions about rifle sales, prompting store officials to tone down that original message. As of Thursday, the sign read, “PILOT LIGHT OUT? FIRE ‘ER BACK UP WITH AN M16 RIFLE.”

“However, there are still people stopping in to see about getting an M-16 rifle,” a Feb. 22 Facebook post said. “We apologize for this confusion and promise to take down the sign when the last lighter is sold. After just a couple days they are almost half gone, so it shouldn’t be long now.

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