Small businesses reel from racial unrest

Posted: January 18, 2021

Rioting adds to setback of pandemic; personal connections to Floyd’s death felt strongly

       “I didn’t know at the time that he was George Floyd. He worked downtown, and he would come and buy little gifts for his daughter,” said Susan Zdon, the owner of a small shop on Lake Street, just a block north of Minnehaha Academy’s Upper School, called CorAzon.      

This year has been insane to say the least. Every time it seems things can’t become any worse, another devastating event unfolds and spirits are plunged even farther into despair than anyone could’ve thought possible. Included in these tragic events was the murder of George Floyd. His death, though appalling, inspired a multitude of people to take to the streets and protest. Some of the first and most prominent protests took place in Minneapolis. 

Those who witnessed the protests all have plenty of things to say, but no one has had quite as unique of an experience as the small businesses on Lake Street. As Zdon recalled, Floyd was a regular in her shop.

“He was always nice and would look around and say how interesting everything was. It was clear he probably wasn’t having the easiest time, but he was a very nice and kind man,” she said. “He would pick out little things and send them to his daughter. He was very tall and distinctive. I didn’t know it was him who had been killed until the pictures came out, and I couldn’t believe it.”  

Zdon recalled how personally the news of Floyd’s death affected her.

“I saw the pictures and realized I knew him. After that, well, the first thing I thought was, ‘how is his daughter going to feel?'” she said. “She’s obviously very young, so that just made it more personal. Then I thought, I am someone with asthma and the idea of not being able to breathe, while you’re telling someone you can’t breathe, and they continue to hold you down. That’s the most horrible thing you could imagine. I just think no matter what he did nobody deserves to die.” 

Her stories don’t cease at that, Zdon goes on to detail what her shop did during the protests that took place after Floyd’s murder.

“We boarded up proactively and I felt really strongly about doing something positive,” she said. “My daughter, who is an artist, actually painted the boards. What I hoped would happen is people from the neighborhood would post positive messages on the boards, but they didn’t they just liked them. The MIA came and collected the boards and they’re going to put them in an exhibit.” 

Zdon said she had to try to revive her business in any way possible. 

“We did everything we could during the protests,” she said. “My son had been talking about an online business. We got that up and running, we did curbside, we did call on the phone, we just scraped together as much as we could. It’s been very different and it’s been hard and stressful, but also very positive. I feel like it’s just made me a better businesswoman.” 

CorAzon is not the only business impacted by the protests and riots. Another person who gave their experience is Pravin Shrestra of the Himilayan, a Nepalese restaurant, a couple blocks east of CorAzon on Lake Street. 

“We stayed open during the protests. We stayed until 12 o’clock at night. Then during the riots we had no gas. With no gas supply we had to close for 8 days. There were people all over.” Sheshtra stated. “The parking lot was always full and there were lots of protesters. The road was just packed. We put up the cardboard. We feel very lucky because we were not thinking about leaving this building soon. That whole time was hard because we have to alternate to this.” 

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