Fairfax merchant explains no-mask policy

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

A Fairfax merchant last Friday explained that the new no-mask policy at her store is a product of concerns about security.

Mitzi Reese, who owns the Red Devil Superette along with her husband, told the Pawhuska Journal-Capital that her experience with customers has been that they seem “very happy with the situation” since signs were posted last week, prohibiting the wearing of face masks. She said some customers have thrown away their masks at the store.

“Shoplifting is a real thing here in Fairfax, believe it or not,” Reese said regarding her desire to make sure that a store surveillance camera captures images of the faces of customers. The store posted on its Facebook page on March 3 an image of its front doors, on which signs had been placed that read in part, “No Masks Allowed.” The Facebook posting described the announcement as a policy change.

The Red Devil’s Facebook page also offered a posting from Feb. 25 that announced a previous mask policy – a “Face Mask Not Required” policy. Someone who read that posting asked, “Not required, or not allowed?” The store replied that masks were, “not allowed at initial entry, not required, and absolutely permitted and at the customer’s discretion AFTER we see your smile once entering and the camera has captured your facial identification.”

The store’s Facebook page also indicates, in a post from Saturday, March 6, that the Red Devil is accommodating patrons who wish to order prepared food but not enter the building. In the March 6 post, the Red Devil asks customers who are ordering pizzas and other prepared food items to let the store staff know over the telephone whether or not they prefer curbside service.

Reese acknowledged the city of Fairfax has a nonbinding policy of encouraging the wearing of masks in local businesses. She said that some downtown businesses have policies mandating mask wearing, but her observation has been that those policies are not enforced.

Reese also said local police told her at one point that they had received a complaint about her store’s approach to mask wearing, and to the effect that the name of her store – Red Devil – was “inherently racist.” She said that the name of the store goes back a long time and was derived from the fact that Fairfax High School athletic teams were once called the “Red Devils.” She said there was no biased intent.

“I understand it’s a contentious time,” Reese said, adding that she thinks numerous businesses are probably facing difficulties.

The mask policy change at the Red Devil came in the same week that people across the U.S. were having online debates about topics as unlikely as the gender names of Potato Head toys and the appropriate response to biased elements of old Dr. Seuss books.

David Bradley, police chief in Fairfax and also an Osage County deputy sheriff, said he was sure the owners of the Red Devil Superette probably had issues they wanted to address with the mask policy.

“They can do whatever they want to do,” Bradley said, explaining the mask policy is at the discretion of the owners.