Don Sucher never asked for nor sought any of this.
The 78-year-old former Vietnam veteran wasn’t seeking fame or fortune. He wasn’t seeking likes and clicks. He wasn’t attempting to have his name splashed across the headlines of mainstream news outlets and the channels of popular online pontificators from around the world, bringing a fair share of infamy with it.
He was more than content opening the doors of his Sucher & Sons Star Wars Store in Aberdeen seven days a week and running the shop he’s run for the better part of two decades.
All that changed this week after a local elected official, Aberdeen City Council member Tiesa Meskis, showed up at Sucher’s store and set forth in motion actions that would reverberate around the globe.
“In 25 years I never encountered this,” Sucher said, commenting that he has had transgender customers before and treats them the same as any other customer coming through the door. “I don’t treat anybody differently. My job is to make them happy and have fun. They buy some stuff and maybe come back.”
Sucher said something didn’t feel right when Meskis and an individual he believed was Meskis’ wife entered the store as shopping wasn’t what Sucher felt they had in mind.
“They came in separately. I was talking to her over here, treating her like a customer, telling her to have fun and everything is half price, and I turn around and (Meskis) came walking this way. … I knew right then he had come to see my sign. I knew he had.”
Sucher states he greeted Meskis, but the council member took offense and the wording used.
“So I said, ‘Oh, I recognize you. You are our councilman.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m your councilwoman.’”
Meskis won the seat in 2019 under the name of Nathan Kennedy before coming out as a transgender female at a July 14 council meeting.
Sucher possesses a jovial demeanor to go along with an acerbic tongue and by no means would be considered a charm-school graduate. He is at the point of his life where backing down to politically correct pressure regarding proper pronoun usage is not an option.
“His attitude, it just pissed me off,” he said. “He is in my store looking for this excuse to bring up (bs). It went outside and it got a little crazy. I didn’t know they were filming, which is kind of good on one hand because I didn’t hold back. I just spouted what I felt and what I thought.”
The argument progressed outside to the sidewalk, with both Sucher and Meskis trading barbs in a now infamous online video that was posted by those close to Meskis.
If the intent was to cause harm to Sucher’s life and business, it’s safe to say some damage was done, but the plan ultimately backfired in the biggest way possible. For simply not backing down and fighting back against what appears to many of his supporters to be a publicity stunt by an elected official, Sucher has become a controversial character to many around the world. Some view him as a hero, while others view him with hate and disdain.
“He did it to set me up and man, it just went out of control, worldwide,” Sucher said, with a somewhat surreal look in his eye.
“It’s like all these fumes were out there and I just happened to hit two rocks together and spark it.”
Sucher is not too internet savvy and admits to having trouble just figuring out text messaging. He said he didn’t know about the video until a friend told him it was posted online.
“That night I got three calls and they were all negative,” he said, explaining he was called some rather vulgar names on the first few messages he received.
At 7 a.m. the following morning, Sucher’s phone was ringing off the hook, with calls coming in every 15 seconds.
“I thought I’m not going to answer this because there are some pissed off people out there,” he said. “At 8 a.m. I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to look’ and it was 25 different numbers from all over the world. I thought this could be either really good, or really bad.”
To Sucher’s surprise, the first voice message was one of encouragement, then another, and another, and on they went. Call after call of supporters from around the world thanking him and wanting to know if there is any way they can purchase items from his shop to show their support.
In the four days since the argument took place, Sucher estimated he has answered over 100 calls and has received approximately 2,500 calls, with less than a handful of them being negative.
Sucher said the outpouring of support from people across the globe has helped him to get through his new-found notoriety.
But while he was fielding calls of support, concerns over the impacts to his life and business also occupied his thoughts.
“That first night, I was very concerned what would happen. I heard they would come down and cause trouble and torch my building,” Sucher said.
The ‘they’ he spoke of is Antifa groups that have wreaked havoc in both Seattle and Portland and caused billions of dollars in damages nationwide in 2020.
“I drove up early just to size up the situation and there was 400 people out there and this was at 9:30 a.m. on my side (of the street),” Sucher said of the moment he saw the number of supporters that lined the 400 block of Wishkah Avenue on Saturday.
He said the show of support was “unbelievable.”
And the pro-Sucher protesters weren’t just out there to stand in front of his shop and hold signs, they were there to speak with their wallets. Streams of supporters, some that came to the protest and others that just came to visit his shop, kept Sucher’s cash register ringing on Saturday.
Many patrons made sure to take a selfie with the now infamous sign, with the message contained within reaching millions more eyeballs than Sucher could have imagined in what is another example of the Streisand Effect at work. It worked so well Sucher has now reached the pinnacle of internet fame — he’s become the subject of several memes.
Sucher was thankful to see so many customers support his business and stated he’s always welcomed members of the LGBTQ community and those from all walks of life to shop at his store.
But while being thrust to the forefront of a nationwide, politically charged debate has brought him and his business national attention, it also brought with it the threat of violence from those that disagree with his stance that men and women posses the corresponding sex organs.
Most notably, while taking selfies, greeting supporters and even signing a few autographs on Saturday, Sucher wore a bulletproof vest. Not once did he take it off while outside his shop.
He still finds a way to crack jokes and laugh through the seriousness of the situation.
“I knew things were fine (when he saw all the supporters) even though I wore a flak jacket and I think it’s on backwards,” Sucher joked. “They could have shot me in the belly. Maybe that or the groin, maybe that’s what they’d be aiming for.”
When asked if he is worried about cancel culture coming for him and his shop, Sucher responds with the same authenticity that brought him national attention.
“Thirty-thousand cars go by a day and I don’t know what is being said out there. … I didn’t even pay attention. I still won’t because I don’t know how too. I can barely answer texts.”
Calls and emails to Aberdeen City Council Member Tiesa Meskis have not been returned as of noon on Sunday.