Friday, April 13, 2001

Merchants focus on reopening

Adding cost of damage comes later

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dozens of Cincinnati business owners undertook the painful task Thursday of assessing damage caused by three nights of looting and mayhem.

[photo] Empty shoe boxes behind Deveroe's Findlay Market store are remants from looting Wednesday night.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        City officials were reluctant to tally the damage, but Councilman Jim Tarbell pegged the figure at more than $1 million.

        Part of the problem is the city's chief building inspector won't send more workers to examine damaged buildings until police are confident the streets are safe.

        And merchants are more concerned about the threat of more fires and theft than tracking stolen inventory and filling out insurance forms.

        “I'm not even dealing with it now,” said Steven Rothchild, nailing plywood to the front of his Big Dollar store on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.

        His chief priority is “reopening the store. No ifs, ands or buts.”

[photo] Gerald Mallin's Leader Furniture store at Findlay Market was ransacked.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        The city's Economic Development Department has three potential strategies to help business pay for broken windows or more costly damage such as stolen inventory and fires, said director Evonne Kovach.

        One proposal is to use federal Community Development Block Grant funds to replace shattered windows outside downtown. It's too early to know how much it will cost, Ms. Kovach said, but it's sure to be costly on Vine Street, where more storefronts are covered by plywood than glass.

        The other proposals are to forgive or delay payments of city loans, depending on the amount of damage inflicted.

        When the rioting stops, the city's Buildings and Inspections Department will conduct an exhaustive sweep of damaged areas. The plan is to calculate a dollar amount and apply for federal emergency aid.

        Some business owners are worried that private insurance won't cover damage caused by rioters, said Rob Schneider, president of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce.

        Gerald Mallin, whose Leader Furniture store at Findlay Market was ransacked early Wednesday and Thursday mornings, claims his loss wasn't the result of a riot but by “burglars and thieves.”

        Findlay Market has been attacked repeatedly over the last few nights. Urban clothing retailer Deveroes was hit the hardest. Its store at the market was essentially liquidated.

        Deveroes' Bond Hill, Westwood and Over-the-Rhine stores also were fleeced. Managers refused to comment.

        At least one Findlay retailer, Kid's World, was untouched.

        “I guess it's because we're black-owned,” said manager Candise Peavie.

        Looted businesses mostly were white-owned, but African-American-owned establishments such as Popeye's in the West End and Sherman's Family Flower shop in Walnut Hills were damaged.

        Chester Beeks, 35, owner of a stereo equipment and general merchandise store on Vine Street, said a rapport with his Over-the-Rhine neighbors helped salvage his business.

        "It's not necessarily a black thing,” said Mr. Beeks, an African-American. “You have a lot of people who've used this as an excuse to loot.”


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