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Lake in the Hills fish store receiving threats after being mistaken for Virginia store in viral video

The store’s owner says people have accused them of being racist and even threatened to burn down the store

Exotic Aquatics on Virginia Road in Lake in the Hills is photographed on Friday, Dec. 24, 2021.

A Lake in the Hills fish store received threatening phone calls and negative reviews online after a video of an altercation at a Virginia store with a similar name went viral and people thought the incident happened in McHenry County.

Exotic Aquatics, located on Virginia Road in Lake in the Hills, began receiving threatening calls and angry comments from people late last week. The store’s manager, Elise Marsh, said people think her business is the same one shown in a video posted online that shows a white store employee dragging a Black customer out of the Virginia store.

“We got a horrible message left at the store,” Marsh said. “There was swearing and talking about how we were horrible white people. We had no idea what was going on.”

The owner of Exotic & Aquatics, a store located Roanoke County, Virginia, was found not guilty of assault and battery charges last week, according to WSLS-TV. A video of the incident, which happened in June, shows the white owner push a Black woman out of the store after an argument over whether a product could be refunded.

“We are definitely appalled. That’s horrible, and we would never treat our customer that way,” Marsh said.

After receiving several threats, she searched her store’s name on the internet and found the video of the altercation on YouTube and found out about the recent not guilty verdict for the owner.

The calls have steadily come in over the last week to the Lake in the Hills store and Marsh said the store’s location on Virginia Road has not helped. She said many of the callers had Chicago region area codes, which concerned her.

“The last message they said they were glad we were in Chicago,” Marsh said.

Another caller with a 773 area code threatened to burn down the store, Marsh said.

Marsh filed a police report with Lake in the Hills police on Wednesday.

“The business that caused the controversy is of no affiliation and owned by different individuals,” Lake in the Hills Officer Amanda Schmitt said in a statement. “In addition to increased patrols of the area, due to the serious and criminal nature of the messages and threats, the Lake in the Hills Police Department has taken reports and will be investigating the incidents.”

The Lake in the Hills store also received negative reviews online from people around the country in the last week and angry messages on social media.

Marsh said the store has never had any problems since opening on Virginia Road about 10 years ago and even dating back to a different location in Lake in the Hills in the early 1990s. The store, which is owned by Marsh’s father Jeff Renfroe, sells salt water fish.

“We would never harm another human being. And we’re in business because of our customers so I would never treat someone that way,” Marsh said.