Richmond Small Businesses Damaged Amid Protests
Whittney Evans and Catherine Komp contributed to this reporting.
Several of Richmond’s Black and Brown-owned businesses were looted during the weekend protests, many of them along Broad Street. Already suffering from COVID-19 financial losses, some owners are concerned about their ability to recover.
Waller & Company Jewelers is one of them. The family-run store has been in Richmond since 1900. Owner Richard Waller Jr. said the destruction to his property escalated as the protests went on.
“They actually got in my store and vandalized it, took merchandise. We've been in business now for 120 years and this is the worst that I've seen,” Waller said.
At the heart of the nationwide protests, Waller said, is racism — it posed challenges for his grandfather who opened the business 120 years ago, and contributes to the lack of opportunities for Black Americans today.
“If we were all on an equal plane we wouldn't have this kind of a problem. It’s possible, but it doesn’t exist,” Waller said. “I guess it's because of discrimination and all the things that have happened over the years.”
Waller said it’s unclear how much of the damage will be covered by insurance, but added that it will be expensive.
“We’re an old business, but we're not a large business,” Waller said. “My sister works there, my daughter-in-law works here, my two sons work here and I'm 82 and I have been working here since I was 17.”
Other small businesses owned by people of color that were damaged and looted include Monument sneaker store and Coliseum Loft Deli and Market — an Iranian-owned restaurant that’s been open for nearly 20 years.
Owner Abbas Jahangiri said they’ve lost income already because of the pandemic. He added that the weekend’s events left him and his family with a shattered storefront.
“We're not going to be operating the business for a while. But I’d like to see what happens, I’d like to see what the city is going to do [for] small businesses like me,” Jahangiri said.
After shutting down in March, the restaurant just reopened last week. Now they’re closed again. Jahangiri estimated more than $10,000 dollars worth of repairs.
Doug Wen, who owns KT Nails off of Broad and Lombardy Streets, was sweeping up glass from broken windowsSunday with his neighbors. Wen’s shop was also badly damaged and looted.
“The COVID-19 already shut it down for two and a half months. And then now this, and I don't know what else to do,” he said. “Black Lives Matter, but this is not the way to protest.”
Just up the block from the nail salon is Integrity Builder Supply. Owner Lawrence West says his building was not damaged, but he wanted to head off future damage by covering up his windows and posting signs that said “Black-owned business.”
“At this point, if something happens to my business, I guess I have to chalk it up to the cause,” West said. “I'm angry myself. I mean, you look at me, I'm wholly a young black male, you know? I drive a nice car and if I get pulled over, all of the things that I've worked for could be ended like that.”
Sunday also marked the 13th anniversary for minority-owned Rumors Boutique, also damaged during the protests. On a Gofundme page, the owners said they will exist in this community as long as the community wants them.
“We will be boarding up our windows for the next few weeks until the threat has passed. Please, protesters, be safe, know that we forgive you, and you are not alone. I stand with you because I am you.”
As of Sunday night, Rumors Boutique raised more than half of a $30,000 goal and said they would donate any additional funds to other minority-owned businesses.