Revisiting the Winnetka QAnon-themed store window

How an article about controversial local window display last March relates to the dangerous surge in support for the QAnon conspiracy theory during the pandemic



Mannequins at Neapolitan in Winnetka caused some concern among residents because of the blue QAnon bracelets around their wrists

Last March, only a week after the pandemic struck, grounding daily life to a halt, I wrote an article for the New Trier News examining a QAnon-themed window display at Neapolitan, a women’s luxury goods store in downtown Winnetka. The bogus QAnon conspiracy theory alleges that a cabal of “deep state” Satan-worshipping elites and child sex traffickers is plotting against now-former President Trump and trying to control American politics and media. 

I decided to write the article after spotting a post on, published by Winnetka resident Hannah Kadin, expressing disgust at the window display. Photos shot by her and, later, by myself depict a large blue Q alongside a mannequin wearing wristbands emblazoned with the words “QAnon” and “@StormIsUponUs,” as well as a sign containing the words “Remain Calm.” 

I discovered ties between the store and a since-suspended pro-QAnon Twitter account with over 18,000 followers, which contained evidence showing exactly how and when Neapolitan added the window display. Store owner Kelly Golden never returned my request for comment despite my multiple attempts to contact her. However, she eventually posted an apology to Nextdoor, claiming that an associate of an acquaintance—a woman named Veronica P. Wolski, who I discovered ran the pro-QAnon Twitter account—had misinformed her about QAnon. 

I remember feeling a certain sense of puzzlement, tinged with disgust, at the sheer absurdity of this saga that had occurred in my hometown. What I did not understand at the time, but came to learn as the following year unfolded, was that this episode foretold a dangerous surge for QAnon and other corrosive, mainly right-wing conspiracy theories in 2020 and 2021. 

Amid the uncertainty of the past year and with many people spending more time online than ever before, conspiracy theorists enjoyed an unprecedented opportunity to garner support for their fraudulent crusades. For instance, pandemic-specific conspiracy theories such as in the viral ‘Plandemic’ video, alleging that a group of corrupt elites fabricated the COVID-19 to profit and gain power, convinced millions of people. 

QAnon followers exploited public anxieties surrounding the truth of the pandemic, uniting COVID-19 myths with the QAnon conspiracy theory. According to researchers such as Georgia State University professor and radicalization expert Mia Bloom, there has been a 174% increase in QAnon-related social media posts during the pandemic. 

The fact that the window display at Neapolitan featured a sign with the words “Remain Calm” is telling. One can imagine how, for a Trump supporter dismayed by what they perceive to be an overblown or falsified pandemic, an all-encompassing conspiracy theory pitting the now-former President against literally Satanic enemies might have provided an appealing sense of purpose and order. 

And it would have only been too easy to fall down the QAnon rabbit hole online, especially for someone spending more time on the internet than usual. Falling down an internet rabbit hole, which addictively ensnares credulity and curiosity, can lead individuals to accept ludicrous conspiracy theories.

However, the explosion in support during the pandemic would not have been possible without one key factor: the sometimes tacit, sometimes frighteningly explicit approval of it by former President Trump. 

Throughout the past year, the now-former President fueled QAnon-adjacent COVID-19 myths, whether he was claiming that “like a miracle… it will disappear” or suggesting injecting bleach to cure the virus. Trump also continually praised QAnon followers, saying that “I’ve heard these are people who love our country.” 

In the 2020 elections, two Trump-endorsed QAnon conspiracists—Lauren Boebert (CO-3) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14)—were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. And his dishonest and anti-democratic campaign to “stop the steal” after losing the presidential election had inextricable ties to the online fabrications of QAnon followers and other right-wing crackpots. 

Sadly, the Capitol Insurrection of January 6th was probably the logical disastrous endpoint of this conspiracy theory-encouraging, quasi-authoritarian posturing by former President Trump, supported by Republican allies. I doubt that many Americans will soon forget the shocking images from that horrific day, with QAnon flags flanking the steps of the U.S. Capitol and individuals such as the horn helmet-wearing, self-proclaimed QAnon shaman rampaging through the halls of Congress. 

To rational people of all political stripes, it might seem that QAnon followers and the other right-wing conspiracy theorists who stormed the U.S Capitol inhabit an entirely different reality than the rest of us. Such violent, misinformed fervor seems utterly foreign. It elicits the same sort of disdain-laden puzzlement I felt when writing about the QAnon-themed window display at Neapolitan. 

On reflection about the QAnon-related events this past year—essentially what I have discussed in this article—it becomes clear that QAnon followers do inhabit a separate reality of sorts; however, that reality is not so foreign as it may seem. 

Today, the United States is possibly more polarized, more divided than at any point since the Civil War. In the wake of the 2020 election, YouGov published a chilling poll finding that 36% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats might support violence to advance political aims, three times the level of support from the same survey in 2017. While the insane actions of QAnon followers may seem foreign to us, they are merely an extreme example of our current extreme polarization that borders on the sectarianism one would expect of places like the Balkans or Iraq. 

It would be easy to place all the blame on the pandemic or former President Trump as a strange political anomaly, and tensions do seem to have calmed down a bit under the new administration, but that would ignore the fact this division goes way deeper. Modern media (including social media) and worsening cultural, racial, and socioeconomic tensions likely contribute to the problem. 

Though I am not an expert on any of that and have no idea how we will even begin to reconcile as a nation, I know that it is a huge problem, and we must do something. Perhaps, in a new post-pandemic world, we can start on an individual level by reconnecting with our real-world communities, one interaction at a time. Indeed, I think the genuine value of my QAnon window story article has been the conversation it generated.