Recovery Begins For Small Businesses Hit By Baltimore Riots
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
We start this hour in Baltimore, a city trying to move forward after a week of sometimes violent demonstrations. Yesterday, a 10 p.m. curfew was lifted. National Guard troops are starting to leave the area, and local business owners are trying to get back up and running. Many who saw their businesses damaged and closed over the last week are optimistic. But for some, the road to recovery will be a long one. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Nicole Jones is just about the open up Socks For Less, one of the kiosks at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, but first she has to take care of some housekeeping.
NICOLE JONES: So I'm just here cleaning up some of this glass that was left after the mayhem.
SANDERS: So there's still glass around?
SANDERS: Mondawmin Mall was a scene of destruction last week. Scores of people rioted, smashed windows and stole thousands of dollars in merchandise. The mall reopened Sunday after being closed for days, but it's not back at a hundred percent just yet.
JONES: They cleaned up on the floor, but you see it's a lot of debris, I guess, obviously, that fell from maybe the stores upstairs that - where they were shattering glass at or whatever and it fell down. But there's a lot of glass in between my socks and my leggings here.
SANDERS: Jones says she's lucky. She just sell socks. But other items like jewelry and shoes - different story.
JONES: I hear the sneakers were all over town. And then the jewelry stores - I hear that everybody's selling bracelets, Rolexes, all types of jewelry and things.
SANDERS: Nia Bui works at a clothing store called Decibel right down the hall from Jones. She's been working long hours just to get the store reopened.
NIA BUI: The last four days.
SANDERS: And that was time spent not actually selling clothes, not making money.
BUI: Inventory, restocking, cleaning up.
SANDERS: But that store is in pretty good shape compared to others in the mall because at least she's reopening.
BUI: I don't even think some people are coming back.
SANDERS: A few miles away near North and Penn, the epicenter of last week's protests, it's going to take more than just a broom and a dustpan to make everything right.
TONY BANKS: The door is broken, the front door. I can't lock it. I have to keep it unlocked at night time and go home with the store left like this.
SANDERS: Tony Banks runs First Star Grocery on North Street, maybe half a block from the CVS that burned down last week.
BANKS: I lost about - close to 40,000 with everything in here - TVs, cameras, everything.
SANDERS: Banks' store is in a basement, so there's a door once you go down the stairs and then another once you get inside. Both doors are broken. Glass is shattered on the inner door, so Banks keeps a piece of plywood wedged between it to keep it closed. And there's an ATM machine near the front that is completely gutted. So you have to wonder why, is he even open?
BANKS: To keep the customers because if they see the store open - they see us trying to get back up, we're going to keep the customers. But they keep passing us closed, they're going to stop coming here.
SANDERS: So Banks mans the store alone, even now, with broken locks and damaged security cameras. This trust might seem strange to an outsider, but Banks trusts his neighborhood. He just doesn't believe they did the looting.
BANKS: I mean the neighborhood is really not that bad. Most of the people who was causing damages wasn't from this neighborhood because nobody's going to damage their own neighbor because the next day they're going to need products. They're going to need to eat. They're going to need to drink.
SANDERS: Banks says his neighbors have helped him with clean-up, but he needs money.
BANKS: Insurance said they won't give us any help because they're not responsible for riots except for floods and fire.
SANDERS: They're not going to give you anything?
SANDERS: Maryland's Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer says even though he doesn't know the specifics of Banks' policy, insurance claim denials take time to review. He says his office can get involved, but investigations can take up to 30 days. But Banks and his store need help now.
BANKS: The landlord, the electric company - they don't care. They want their money.
SANDERS: So the rent and everything is still due?
BANKS: Still due. Everything is still due - all the bills.
SANDERS: But for now, Banks says he'll stay open, broken doors and all. Sam Sanders, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.