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Jan. 29, 2023

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Vancouver’s Axehead closes after social media backlash

Future of Vancouver business unclear; online business still operating

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
2 Photos
“For lease” signs were posted in the front windows of the former Axehead store in Uptown Village on or prior to Aug. 14.
“For lease” signs were posted in the front windows of the former Axehead store in Uptown Village on or prior to Aug. 14. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Vancouver company Axehead appears to have closed its Vancouver storefront. “For lease” signs are posted in the front windows, although there’s still merchandise visible on the shelves and displays inside.

The company, which sells custom handcrafted products along with embroidery and printing services, landed in hot water in Vancouver’s social media circles three weeks ago after it posted a photo on Instagram that appeared to endorse the use of an anti-gay slur.

The post showed Axehead owner Randy Larson posing for a picture with two people who the caption identified as visitors to Axehead’s second storefront location in Whitefish, Mont., which opened earlier this year.

One of the visitors was wearing a red T-shirt with an image of Cuban revolutionary figure Che Guevara accompanied by printed text reading “SOCIALISM IS FOR F*GS,” and Larson could be seen smiling and pointing at the front of the shirt.

Several Vancouver residents began circulating screenshots of the post on social media and urging fellow users to avoid shopping at Axehead. The store received a large influx of negative reviews on Google Maps and Facebook, and the online spat was exacerbated when Larson repeatedly insulted one of the initial review writers in a combative reply post.

The Vancouver storefront closed down during the controversy, with a sign on the door stating that the business was closed to retail shopping but customers could still call to place orders or schedule pickups.

The for lease signs appeared in the windows at some point on or before Aug. 14. It’s unclear if the storefront ever reopened in the interim. It’s also unclear whether the apparent closure of the Vancouver storefront will have any impact on the storefront in Whitefish.

Reached by phone, Larson declined to comment about the signs or the future of the business.

Updates to the company’s website suggest that Axehead will continue to operate as an online business. Starting on or before Wednesday, the website’s original axeheadnw.com address began redirecting visitors to a new domain called axeheadmt.com.

The new website’s design closely resembles the appearance of the original axeheadnw site. The only major difference is that the addresses of both the Vancouver and Whitefish locations have been removed and there are no references to a physical location for the company.

The Vancouver and Whitefish locations are still listed on Google Maps, but the company’s Facebook page appears to have been deleted, along with the Instagram pages for both storefronts.

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Columbian business reporter