Marcia Lakein and her father, Warren Lakein, were working at the family’s jewelry store on the afternoon of April 27 as tension in Baltimore over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody climaxed.
After Marcia Lakein and her father locked away the most valuable items in safes, they closed shop at 5 p.m., half hour earlier than usual. But being miles away from the riot’s epicenter of North and Pennsylvania avenues, Marcia Lakein wasn’t panicked or particularly scared. She even sat across Harford Road from her store in her car in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot so she could pick up a friend.
But about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Marcia Lakein received some bad news from a friend who was listening to a police scanner. The police had responded to her store and found it looted.
“In my imagination there could’ve been mobs of people here,” Marcia Lakein said.
Laekin’s is one of the more than 400 businesses in Baltimore that were damaged in the riots. They range from large corporate-owned chains to mom-and-pop shops. Some had been open for just days, others have been fixtures in neighborhoods for decades. Damages ranged from broken glass to arson.
Now, months after the riots and efforts by groups such as the Baltimore Development Corp. to help enterprises bounce back, some business owners are still dealing with damages and the emotional wounds of seeing something you’ve built and nurtured come under assault.
After her friend called, Marcia Lakein immediately came to the store. She found a hole had been knocked through the door that allowed looters to climb into the shop. An antique showcase, which had been at the store since the location opened in 1934, was damaged. Although most of what was taken was of fairly limited value — Marcia Lakein declined to give an estimate for the damage to the store, and said all stolen items were less than $50 — the shop was still in shambles.
It took three weeks to complete an inventory because of the mess. The restoration company hired to help with repairs sent three employees, and it took a total of five hours to vacuum up all the glass. Even now Marcia Lakein said they still occasionally find a pieces of glass on the floor.
The store has security cameras, and they recorded looters taking about 40 minutes and three tries to bash a hole large enough in the front door to get in. Then two different groups of about a half-dozen people looted the store. Most of the looters had white hoodies pulled tight to obscure their faces and wore gloves. There were two men whose faces could clearly be seen on the recordings, but so far no arrests have been made.
“It’s probably going to be 10 months to a year [from the riots] before we get back to normal,” Marcia Lakein said.
Despite all the disruption to their business, the biggest of which was the lack of display space because of damage to the cases, Marcia Lakein said she and her father never considered moving the business. In fact, they’re planning on making improvements to the store.
She said more than two dozen residents came by that Tuesday and offered supportfor the business that Marcia Lakein’s great-grandfather started in 1913. More than a dozen people made purchases just because they wanted to show their support. Marcia Lakein remains positive. Unlike some other businesses, no one at her store was hurt, the building wasn’t burned and the owners are insured, she noted.
“There’s been a lot of blessings as well as heartache,” she said.