Ferguson Store Owners: Customers ‘Too Scared’ to Bring Business to the Area

Benjamin Fearnow

FERGUSON, Mo. (CBS ST. LOUIS) – Businesses in Ferguson say they are “going to wait and see” how to sustain what has been a tumultuous few months of riots and dramatically reduced revenue, with some local store owners saying customers are “too scared” to bring their business to the area.

Local stores and businesses throughout Ferguson expressed feelings of frustration and uncertainty as many have boarded-up windows, increased security measures and lost thousands of dollars in revenue amid protests stemming from the Aug. 9 police shooting death of Michael Brown. Many businesses said they will just have to wait and see what happens ahead of an expected November ruling on whether or not to indict officer Darren Wilson.

“We’ve lost $200 to $300 in business nightly, people are afraid to pick up in the night, after dark,” said Tammy Cao of the Hunan Chop Suey Chinese Restaurant. “People are too scared at night … I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

She said the store has “paid $1,500 out-of-pocket for window damages” caused by rioters, because the $5,000 insurance deductible “did not add up.”

“I know customers who have left the area … I just want everything to go back to normal and everyone can do business again.”

A return to normalcy is a sentiment echoed by many Ferguson businesses.

Zisser Tire & Auto said the rioters “knocked out 90 percent of our windows, which are still boarded up.”

“We’ve just been trying to go to work, business as usual – nobody wants to take the boards down until we see what happens. It’s more of the not knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Jenny of Don Henefer Jewelers said that although their store has not been directly harmed by the Ferguson protests or rioters, they now “put all the jewelry away at night.”

The Swiish Bar and Grill owners have filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri, St. Louis County, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the cities of Ferguson and Jennings for what they claim is more than $25,000 in lost revenue. Owners Chantelle and Corey Nixon-Clark told KTVI-TV they were forced to close their doors for weeks as a law enforcement command post was set up in the Jennings shopping center amid the riots.

Some store owners said that customer and business fears are a shared experience.

“I feel scared about my business,” Rokhaya Biteye, owner of Daba African Hair Braiding in one of the modest strip malls that line West Florissant, told Reuters.

She said profits have evaporated to almost nothing since the shooting. In weeks prior, she generally pulled in about $800, but is now bringing in less than $100 each week.

“I don’t think it will work anymore,” she said, adding that she has no insurance.

Charles of Ferguson Burger Bar & More said that he has resolved not to make any added security provisions to the store because of his faith in a higher power.

“I’m going to leave it up to the man I put in charge originally, I’m going to leave it up to God,” he said. “I’m not boarding up, I’m not closing.”

Benjamin Fearnow

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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