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The Scoop: Ferguson community bands together for storefront clean up

November 25th 05:11pm, 2014

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{Volunteers cut sections of plywood to board up broken windows at Snappy’s Bar and Grill}

 

Rocked by protests and looting in the wake of Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, the Ferguson community turned out in force on Nov. 25 to help local restaurants and businesses sweep up and rebuild. South Florissant Avenue swarmed with volunteers, who boarded up broken windows, cleared away glass and comforted the distraught.

 

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{At left, Natalie’s Cakes & More owner Natalie DuBose, and at right, family friend Cynthia Smith}

 

Natalie DuBose, owner of Natalie’s Cakes & More, greeted visitors outside her storefront at 100 S. Florissant Road, while volunteers nailed sheets of plywood to an empty window frame. A chair had been thrown through it in the middle of the night. “This is not going to stop us,” said Cynthia Smith, a family friend.

Up and down the street, the outpouring set a vastly different tone from the near-deserted West Florissant Road corridor, which as of this morning was roped off after several buildings were set ablaze during the night. Police checkpoints barred individuals from entering the area, including members of the press.

On South Florissant Road, however, the sidewalks thronged with business owners, journalists, protesters and volunteers, cleaning up or simply observing the scene. Restaurant industry professionals, among others, each had their stories.

Joel Flores, owner of El Palenque, said he closed his doors several hours before the grand jury decision was announced and watched the subsequent protests from home on TV. The restaurant at 254 S. Florissant Road sustained several broken windows, though Flores said nothing was damaged inside. “This morning, everybody was helping to clear,” he said. “Neighbors and friends.”

Next door, a large group of volunteers was busy boarding up more than a dozen broken windows at Snappy’s Bar and Grill. Among them was Ken Jenkins, a Florissant pastor and brother of Jerome Jenkins, co-owner of nearby Cathy’s Kitchen Restaurant & Diner. The popular American diner is known for its community outreach efforts; the kitchen was seen serving free food to assembled protesters before Monday night’s grand jury decision. A witness said that later, several individuals linked arms in front of the restaurant to prevent it from being damaged, an incident documented frequently on social media outlets.

Ken Jenkins confirmed that Cathy’s storefront suffered minimal damage, only a broken window or two. Meanwhile, local volunteers quickly gathered to help. “It’s been really neat to see the community come together,” Jenkins said, adding that “over 100 people, black, white, every nationality” had turned out. “That’s Ferguson,” he added. Jerome and Cathy Jenkins were not immediately available for comment.

At Queen’s Chop Suey, owner Xiaojiang Yang said he packed up the restaurant’s ordering computer and left Monday evening before the grand jury announcement, later watching the protests on TV. “I was scared. I couldn’t go outside,” he said. This morning, he discovered two large windows had been broken. Around 10 volunteers showed up to help nail plywood.

 

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{Fire damage at St. Louis Fish & Chicken Grill}

 

Mahmoud Wardeh, whose family owns the St. Louis Fish and Chicken franchise on South Florissant and Chambers avenues, boarded windows and cleared the debris from a trash can that had been set on fire inside. The rest of the building sustained only minimal damage. Wardeh said he was grateful for the sporadic groups of volunteers that were assisting with clean up.

“We can’t judge a community by an individual’s actions. We were against boarding the stores, but sometimes you have to protect the property. Business owners and community members have to pay for this,” he said, gesturing up and down the street.

 

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{The burned storefront at Little Caesars}

Perhaps the hardest hit restaurant on South Florissant was a Little Caesars Pizza franchise, which was set on fire during the protests and gutted completely by the blaze. Robert, a manager of the franchise who requested that his last name be withheld, said that unauthorized volunteers had attempted to help put out the flames last night before police ordered them off the premises. On Tuesday morning more than a dozen volunteers, including employees of the franchise, could be seen helping with the clean-up effort. Others passed out bottles of water or collected debris with wheelbarrows. Robert said he was concerned for the safety of volunteers, but “I appreciate having the community. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Still, the optimism and unity of the moment was not without a sense of foreboding. Many of the restaurant owners have reported dramatic fluctuation in business since the unrest began in August. Most were not certain, at present, whether their businesses would be able to open their doors tomorrow and sensed that a long road lay ahead: Three years ago, the Little Caesars required seven months to rebuild after it was leveled by a tornado. “It may go quicker this time, if we decide to rebuild,” Robert said. “That’s a big if.”

 

Click here to read how the South Grand and Clayton communities regrouped after yesterday’s events.

-photos by Garrett Faulkner

 

By Garrett Faulkner

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