Share
News

Looters Finish Off Businesses Crippled by COVID Lockdown

Share

Looting and vandalism in cities across the country have dealt another blow to small businesses that were already reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Along with big chain stores like Target, Walgreens and Macy’s, independent retailers in neighborhoods and downtown sections were targets of vandals and looters who struck as police mobilized to contain large protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Many businesses had been closed by state and local government orders as officials tried to contain the spread of COVID-19, leaving owners with little or no revenue since March. Now, already facing an uncertain future amid ongoing restrictions, owners must figure out how to rebuild or relocate their companies.

Over three nights, Ahmed Muhumud’s Minneapolis optician shop was vandalized, looted and burned, leaving Midtown Eye Care in ruins. The store was just getting back to business after having been shut since mid-March by lockdown restrictions.

“This has been a difficult couple of months, and now with the protesters and everything that followed — it’s very difficult,” Muhumud said.

Trending:
Border Agents Furious After What Kamala Harris Said About Them

He’s trying to figure out what to do next; the building, which may not be salvageable, is in a hard-hit area with many minority-owned businesses that were also looted and burned.

“We don’t know where to move,” Muhumud said.

Small businesses employ nearly 60 million people, or nearly half the U.S. workforce. Since COVID-19 lockdowns brought the U.S. economy to a virtual standstill, the government has loaned businesses hundreds of billions of dollars to help them survive and keep their employees on staff as unemployment soars toward 20 percent. But some won’t make it, and bankruptcies are already on the rise.

Johnny Grimes reopened his hair salon in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday after being closed for two months due to the virus outbreak. That night the windows of the Wheelhouse Salon were shattered and the establishment looted.

Are looters overshadowing legitimate protests of George Floyd's death?

As Grimes boarded up the salon on Monday, he said he was devastated by what had happened to his business but was sympathetic with those who demonstrated against police brutality.

“I just hope that this isn’t all for nothing,” he said. “I hope that this does spark some kind of national conversation on race, racial reconciliation, police brutality and how the African American, the black community, is treated in America,” said Grimes, who is white.

Sam Mabrouk tried to save his denim clothing store from being vandalized and left barren amid protests on Friday in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Mabrouk, who arrived from Egypt over a decade ago, owns two retail stores in the city; one, 89 and Pine, was destroyed.

Mabrouk said he tried to convince the people ransacking his store and other minority-owned businesses nearby that he understood their cause and begged them to leave his store alone.

“I lost everything in one night,” Mabrouk said of the estimated $70,000 in stolen merchandise. “That was my savings from 11 years of working. That’s what hurts more than anything.”

Related:
As Criminals Take Advantage of Ida's Chaos, National Guard Called in to Enforce Mandatory Curfew

Mabrouk had already lost business due to being shut down amid the virus outbreak but said he wouldn’t give up.

“Even if I only have a thousand pairs of jeans to sell and nothing else, I will start from there,” Mabrouk said.

In Boston, vandals shattered the front windows at Clarendon Wines on Sunday night and stole much of the alcohol at the front of the shop in the city’s high-end Back Bay neighborhood.

“We never thought this could happen,” said Kayla Levine, a manager at the store that’s been family-owned since the 1940s. “Boston has been good about protests. They’ve been mostly peaceful. We were hoping for the best this time.”

Levine said she supported the mostly peaceful demonstrations but felt other people had taken advantage of Sunday’s protests to cause destruction.

“It’s just really sad because the message gets skewed,” she said.

Like other stores, Clarendon Wines has been contending with a steep drop in revenue due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. The store normally relies heavily on workers in nearby office complexes for its sales, but those customers have been working from home.

The pandemic remains an issue for businesses that are able to keep operating because social distancing requirements and weak consumer spending are likely to limit their revenue and income. Many owners, especially restaurateurs, have been uncertain about the future because of the virus, and the violence following Floyd’s death has added to that uncertainty.

On Monday, one of Patrick & Co.’s two San Francisco stationery stores was held up at knifepoint; the thief took backpacks and threatened employees, but no one was hurt. The attack came after both stores had windows broken and merchandise stolen, not only during the protests, but also twice as they were shut due to the pandemic.

Owner Jamie Patrick estimates that even with insurance reimbursement, the damage will cost between $15,000 and $20,000, a lot of money in the best of times for a small business, but harder to come up with when revenue is down because of the pandemic.

“Having to replace windows and deal with everything else at this point is tough. But we stand with all the people who are protesting peacefully,” Patrick said.

Mercado, a Minneapolis marketplace for Latino retailers and restaurants, has been closed since March because of the COVID-19 shutdown. The restaurants planned to open for outdoor seating on Monday, but last week’s violence and looting has forced a delay, says Mercado general manager Eduardo Barrera.

The tenants have not yet visited Mercado, and so the damage was still being assessed, Barrera said.

“I have no idea when we’re going to begin coming back,” he said.


[jwplayer kYqnWV8u]

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



loading

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
, , , , , , ,
Share
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




loading

Conversation