North Carolina store owner offers free chocolate to anyone who burns a Confederate flag

A North Carolina chocolatier who offered free treats to anyone willing to burn a Confederate flag sold out of candy after locals held a rally to support his store. 

Matthew Shepherd, who owns Matthew's Chocolates in Hillsborough, N.C., started the promotion last month as a response to a group that gathers near his shop every weekend to hand out Confederate flags.

"They were calling me names, they’re calling everybody names," Shepherd told WNCN. "They're instigating, they're poking, they’re blocking the sidewalk."

Shepherd initially called the police, who told him the group was protected by free speech. So, the shop owner turned to a sweeter solution: He placed a sign outside his store offering a very specific deal. 

"Burn a Rebel Flag ... Get a Free Chocolate!" the sign read.

Shepherd said his goal was to add some levity to the situation. 

"None of the locals want that flag there, none of them," he told WNCN. "So instead of seeing angry people, I was seeing people, 'Oh look at this!’ It was lightening the mood."

But the sign did more than just lighten the mood. Shepherd's deal turned out to be so popular, he started running out of sweets. Locals even put on a rally to support the chocolatier, after which Shepherd said he gave away so much food he had to shut down for three days so he could restock. 

"Whew, What a week!" Shephard posted to his store's Facebook page on Sunday, Aug. 4. "I have to apologize to everyone though, we will not be opening on Sunday. We have sold out of everything! There is nothing to sell. No gelato, no chocolates. I am truly sorry for this, I just couldn't make enough chocolates to keep up."

Not every response has been positive, however. Shephard has reportedly received numerous death threats, which are being investigated by local police, according to North Carolina's WTVD. The threats started as a local phenomenon, but Shephard said he's now gotten angry messages from all over the country.

One local supporter, Steve Marley, took to Facebook to express his anger against Shepard's offer, according to WNCN.

"When I’m minding my own business and I get attacked by this guy and he puts out advertisements on his business chalkboard to promote violence on burning my property, then it’s not going to end well," Marley's post said.

Shephard isn't alone in his stand though. Hillsborough's mayor, Tom Stevens, has also spoken out against the town's Confederate flag-waivers.

"For more than a century and well within living memory, the confederate flag has been a banner of oppressive intimidation and hateful behavior. Wanting the battle flag to represent 'heritage' doesn’t change that fact that flagging is a shameful, hateful, offensive, racist behavior — regardless of intention," Stevens said in a Facebook post last month.

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