A mattress-sale fundraiser at Dominican High School started Wednesday with a trickle of customers — and the first customer came in after seeing a sign.
The signs, of course, provoked controversy Tuesday when the village building inspector said they violated sign ordinances and ordered that they be removed immediately because they were in public right of ways.
More than 100 signs had been placed around the village to advertise the sale of the deeply discounted mattresses, with the proceeds going to benefit Dominican athletics programs and local domestic violence shelters.
On Wednesday, though, Dominican officials sought to downplay any notion of conflict with the village, choosing to focus instead on the mission behind the fundraiser itself. The sale runs noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the school cafeteria, 120 E. Silver Spring Dr.
"Our mission is to help the underserved," said Leanne Giese, Dominican president. "We have so many service projects going on all the time." She pointed to a cart full of food that was going to the needy. Next to it, a batch of the mattress fundraiser signs was stacked.
"We apologize that the signs were put all over the village," she said. "We want to follow the rules, and there are no ill feelings."
Brian Geittmann, dean of students, said proceeds from the mattress sales would go to good causes. "Our athletic booster club provides for a lot of opportunities for student athletes," he said.
Both said they had received no complaints about the signs until the village building inspector called Tuesday and said they needed to come down.
"We have a great relationship with the village and the police department, and we don't want to disrupt that," Brian Geittmann said. "We want to be compliant."
Added Giese, "We were trying to do something good for the community."
Geittmann's brother, John, who also has ties to Whitefish Bay, is running the mattress fundraiser through his Waukesha fundraising company. The company buys the mattresses wholesale and sells them at steeply discounted rates to school customers. The schools get about 60 percent of the proceeds, and the company announced it would donate $50 for each mattress sold to local women's shelters to assist domestic violence shelters.
John Geittmann said about four or five customers had stopped by in the first half hour of the sale, which started at noon and is supposed to coincide with parent-teacher conferences. Each person bought a mattress, he said.
"The first customer had seen the signs," he said, and the others were connected to the school.