A QAnon storefront in Winnetka? Controversy over display by wife of @properties CEO reignites after Trump rally
The display, featuring a mannequin wearing a “Q” hat and wristbands promoting the baseless conspiracy theory, drew condemnation last year when it was put up at the Neopolitan Collection in Winnetka.
A north suburban clothing shop that installed a QAnon-themed window display last spring is owned by the wife of the CEO of @properties — the real estate firm that fired an agent who attended the “March To Save America” that devolved into a riot in the nation’s capital.
The company announced it was immediately terminating the agent, Libby McCarten Andrews, over social media posts she made about “storming the capital” for President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.
But after the news surfaced, North Shore residents quickly pointed out that Kelly Golden — wife of @properties CEO Michael Golden — runs a prominent clothing boutique, Neapolitan Collection, that installed a QAnon-themed window display that angered shoppers in Winnetka. The baseless conspiracy theory alleges Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of Satan-worshiping Democrats, Hollywood elites and “Deep State” operatives who rule the world and engage in child sex trafficking.
Followers of the theory were out in full force at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, and social media companies have increasingly banned accounts held by QAnon followers for promoting violence.
The Neapolitan display, installed last spring at the store at 560 Chestnut in Winnetka, featured at least one mannequin adorned in a white hat with the letter “Q” and blue wristbands inscribed with the words “QAnon” and the phrase, “@StormisUponUs” — a reference to the “The Storm” — the moment when Trump would initiate mass arrests of the alleged cabal and his enemies, according to the conspiracy theory’s doctrine. That social media handle has been used by Joe M., creator of a video series about QAnon that has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and other platforms, although it’s repeatedly been taken down.
Kelly Golden — who the store’s website says has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and has hosted such celebrities as Demi Moore, the Olsen twins and some of the world’s best-known fashion designers — did not respond to requests to explain the decision to feature the display.
The Cook County Treasurer mails the store’s property tax bill to 560 Chestnut LLC, a limited liability corporation company at 806 N. Peoria St. in Chicago, a building home to @properties’ Goose Island office. 560 Chestnut LLC filed papers with the Illinois secretary of state disclosing the company is managed by Michael Golden.
Michael Golden also didn’t respond to requests to comment.
An @properties spokesman said the two businesses are “unrelated (except by marriage).”
He issued a statement saying “neither @properties nor any of its owners have anything to do with Q Anon whatsoever, and completely and forcefully denounce it as a false conspiracy theory.”
The spokesman pointed to posts Kelly Golden made on social media, in which she said a friend of a friend asked her to display the information and gave her the bracelets. She said she didn’t know the theory’s origins, but displayed the information anyway.
“An acquaintance introduced me to someone, and they asked if I would put this ‘Remain Calm’ sign in one of my windows the day we had to close our shop” for the coronavirus lockdown, she wrote.
“ ... I trusted the simplicity of the statement ‘Remain Calm’ during this unprecedented time.”
The phrase is frequently used by Q followers to suggest staying calm before Trump starts his crackdown.
Kelly Golden said she was told QAnon was a military intelligence operation connected to a New Trier graduate.
“I wanted to show my support for the military and our Winnetka community during this crisis. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone,” she wrote.
In a second post, she said, “I made a terrible error in judgement and have corrected it. That is not a group I should have been associated with in any way.”
The display has since been taken down.
Federal Election Commission records show Kelly Golden made two $250 donations to organizations supporting Trump in August, but there is no indication she attended the “March to Save America” rally in the nation’s capital.
An Instagram account, @shopneapolitan — which has been tagged by the store’s official account when pictures of Kelly Golden are posted — has referenced the QAnon theory, according to screenshots provided by community members before the account was made private.
A post shared with the Sun-Times included hashtags connected to the conspiracy theory, including “jfkjrlives” — a reference to some adherents’ belief that John F. Kennedy Jr. is not dead and is actually the Q figure — and “thegreatawakening” and “impeachmenthoax” alongside hashtags encouraging people to “shoplocal.”
‘It troubled me’
Residents told the Sun-Times they were shocked by the storefront display in such a prominent North Shore location.
“It troubled me a lot,” Wilmette resident Paul Traynor said. “Any lie like this that is so detached from reality ... that people around here would believe it and promote it, it’s concerning.”
Hannah Kadin, who grew up in Winnetka but now attends college out of state, was the first to bring attention to the display on the Nextdoor online forum last spring, which triggered a heated discussion.
While she said she didn’t want to see the shop “canceled,” she wanted to make sure people who shop there knew about what the store had promoted. She said in an interview that Kelly Golden’s explanation “didn’t really make sense.”
Northfield resident Monica Bidwill said the promotion of the theory by a well-known business in the area “is really disturbing, even more after what happened on Jan. 6th. It’s kind of scary especially now.”
Kadin said she wasn’t surprised many are trying to distance themselves from those who promote conspiracy theories such as QAnon or who argued the election was stolen.
“No one wants to be associated with people who participated in that,” she said. On @properties’ decision to fire Andrews, she said: “It just seems like public relations.”
Andrews was let go after she reportedly posted a photo of herself standing on the steps of the Capitol and another photo featuring a glass of bubbly and captioned: “After storming the capital a good glass of champagne is needed!”
Andrews did not respond to repeated requests for comment but has denied she went inside the building.
In a statement, @properties — which its website says is the state’s largest brokerage firm — said the company “has always acknowledged an individual’s right to their own beliefs — political and otherwise. The company also respects everyone’s right to peaceful protest. However, @properties unequivocally condemns the actions of the people who ascended the steps of the Capitol Building and attempted to threaten the country’s democratic process.
“This former @properties agent’s actions, and her public pronouncements on social media, were not consistent with our standards of conduct, and as a result the company made the decision to end its affiliation with her.”
Contributing: Tim Novak, Stephanie Zimmermann