Three years ago, the Twins Cities area broke out in unrest after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd on May 25. Though much of the focus was on south Minneapolis, small businesses in north Minneapolis suffered damage and losses as well.
Since then, government funding has helped some northside businesses reopen. But others are not yet whole.
Tara Watson owns a building on West Broadway that is home to a number of her businesses including Watson Chiropractic and Anytime Fitness. She remembered the emotions surrounding the uprising.
“There was fear, people just didn't feel safe. People were very upset,” Watson said. “People didn't feel safe by the police it was just a lot going on all at one time.”
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Molotov cocktails and thrown objects damaged the top of her building. Watson said she couldn’t secure funding to fix the roof. The cost is over $100,000, she estimated.
“I wasn't able to get help with that, or leverage that and find anybody who was willing to do that,” she said. “I mean, we're still hopeful, but we weren't able to.”
Insurance, she added, does not cover riot damage.
“Thankfully, West Broadway Business and Area Coalition did have some impact funding that helped,” Watson said.
She received grants to repair damage and spruce up the front of the building, including new signage and improved lighting outside.
Ousman Camara remembers learning about how George Floyd was killed.
“When I woke up to pray in the middle of the night that's when I saw the video,” Camara said.
Later that day, he got a text from a customer. She told him people were breaking into businesses near his store on West Broadway. Camara rushed from his Brooklyn Center home to K's Grocery and Deli.
Five customers helped him stand guard inside K's during the first week while the scene outside was intense. Rounds of gunshots filled the air. Pickup trucks zoomed through the streets.
By week two, the group dropped to a pair of loyal customers. Their presence allowed him to travel home for daily showers and spend some time with his family.
Camara, a witness to civil war in his native country of Sierra Leone, sat by the front window with the lights on. He did this for more than 30 days.
After the monthlong watch of his business was over, he said K's deli was vandalized multiple times. They shattered his front windows.
“There was one time they stole an ATM from the store,” he said. “My cash register got broken into a few times. It was just stealing stuff that is available.”
Help came in the form of grants and low-interest loans from neighborhood groups such as West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, Northside Economic Opportunity Network and other agencies.
Camara was able to replace the broken windows and glass entrance door. He also got bars for the windows and a roll-up gate that prevents break-ins. And he fixed the cash register system and installed an external camera system. Grant money helped pay for bills too.
Now, he feels safe.
“So that helped greatly since then. It's been good,” he said.
According to 2020 tax forms, West Broadway Business and Area Coalition granted $541,174 to 33 recipients. These funds were businesses located in North Minneapolis who were “impacted by the civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd.”
Warren McLean, president of Northside Economic Opportunity Network, said many organizations responded.
“There's a sustained effort to make sure that Black and BIPOC businesses really get the funding that they need. And so that's it's a huge impetus ... on the part of local governments, and particularly on the state really stepped up in a big way to provide grants,” McLean said. “Hennepin County did it. And then the City of Minneapolis did as well.”
Despite everything she's been through, Watson says she firmly believes in the northside and its future.
“I think we dug ourselves out of the trenches. I really do. I think that that was amazing,” she said. “I'm excited about what we're gonna get on the other side of this because we're almost there. And I think it's just gonna be a better opportunity, a better community, a better north side, a better south side.”
Camara appreciates his customers concern for him during and after the unrest.
“So the neighborhood for me, I love it. I will not move for nothing,” he said.