Minneapolis Business Owners Suffer Quietly

July 29, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

Two months after riots in south Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, many businesses are still struggling while dealing with rising gun violence in their neighborhoods.

Some small family-owned minority businesses whose shops were vandalized, looted, or burned down say they are still waiting for financial support from state and city-level government officials after Governor Tim Walz’s request for $500 million in federal aid to help in the rebuilding was rejected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A spokesperson for FEMA said “it was determined that the impact to public infrastructure is within the capabilities of the local and state governments to recover from,” according to MPR News.

An email to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey about his office’s plans to help the affected businesses were not answered upon publication of the story.

Epoch Times Photo
Speedway across from the George Floyd memorial remains closed after it was looted during a riot following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., on July 27, 2020. (Meiling Lee/The Epoch Times)

Another negative impact on the once vibrant business community is the increase in gun assaults. Business owners say they don’t feel safe in the community anymore.

The city reported it’s 37th homicide after a 17-year-old Hispanic boy was shot outside a store three blocks north of the George Floyd memorial site and later died at the hospital on July 23. According to the Star Tribune, “At least 274 people have been struck by gunfire so far this year—a total that exceeds all of 2019 and is about 56 percent higher than the five-year average of shooting victims for this time of the year.”

For Cande Gama, owner of Pasteleria Gama, adjusting to the high crimes occurring in the neighborhood means closing her shop early and less outdoor activity when she’s home. “There’s been a lot of killing around the area. I mean, everywhere. Ever since the protesters, it’s not safe,” Gama told The Epoch Times. “And I’m scared because there’s a lot of shooting everywhere now, everywhere, in the park, everywhere in the area.”

Gama, an immigrant from Mexico, opened her bakery more than four years ago and bought her home in the community this past December. She wanted to give her kids a permanent place to grow up but now worries for their safety. “I don’t feel safe to send my kids to the store. I don’t feel safe walking on the street. You don’t know who’s gonna shoot you, when, what time because people have guns,” Gama says.

Her bakery was doing well before the stay-at-home order in March. The only aid she has received so far is the PPP loan that allowed her to bring back the eight employees she had to let go for two months. The business has been steady but not like before the shutdown.

Epoch Times Photo
The George Floyd memorial in front of Cup Foods where he died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn., on July 27, 2020. (Meiling Lee/The Epoch Times)

While at the George Floyd memorial site, small groups of tourists still make a visit to the area, but their presence doesn’t do much for the few businesses that are still operating and trying to survive.

Dan Refaya of Mill City Auto Body says he is struggling to bring business back to what it was before the riots occurred. “My business, since that happened is 70 percent down,” Refaya told The Epoch Times. “What I’m trying to do right [now], just to keep the shop open, no benefits. Actually, I’m losing.”

Refaya says he has to pay his monthly rent no matter if his business is opened or not. He still hasn’t replaced his broken window which is still boarded up, and he’s kept the rock that was used to break his window. He says it’s not worth filing a claim with his insurance for a $1,000–$2,000 replacement if his fees will increase afterward.

His wife has been calling the Minneapolis mayor’s office and the city council every day to inquire about assistance but has not gotten a reply.

Refaya, who’s business has been in the area since 2002 says he can’t just walk away from his shop that he has worked hard to build with his sweat and tears after he moved to Minnesota from Jerusalem. “I’ve been suffering for 18 years, over 20 years to build my business,” Refaya says. “You know I have four kids in college. How am I going to recover? That’s why I’m telling you, I’m surviving, even [if] I feel not safe.”

With the streets cordoned off since May due to the memorial, getting to his shop has been challenging for his customers and the deliverymen. Refaya said one of his customers was beaten four days ago by a small group of people for accidentally crossing a memorial for a black pregnant woman who died from a gunshot wound by her boyfriend and the father of her child, one block from the George Floyd Memorial site. “They beat him, they break his glasses, and they take his phone. And even they try to take his car from him,” Refaya said. The police were not called about the incident.

Other business owners who didn’t want to be identified also said that the community is no longer safe. Many are afraid to speak up for fear of public backlash and for their personal safety. One of them said, “How many people have to die after him? When I’m out of business, I’m dying.”