Hardware Retailing

AUG 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | August 2017 90 Rioters Belle Hardware Baltimore M ickey Fried says that for a moment, the historic Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, where his family has owned Belle Hardware since 1978, was filled with "raw emotion." In April 2015, protestors took to the streets after Baltimore resident Freddie Gray fell into a coma while in police custody and later died. Rioters took advantage of a volatile situation, ransacking more than 280 businesses and causing an estimated $9 million in property damage, according to The Baltimore Sun. Take Every Precaution Following a weekend of mounting tension, police encouraged business owners to close their stores early in the afternoon on April 27. Fried was out of state, so it fell to his mother, co-owner Janice McCulley, to heed the police's warnings, lock the shop, activate security alarms and keep tabs on its condition as best she could. After a security alarm sounded later that night, McCulley returned with friends and neighbors in a final effort to safeguard the store, boarding up the glass windows rioters had already broken. Soon, she left Belle Hardware as more looters prowled the shopping center. Survey the Damage Fried sped back to Baltimore early the next morning, fearing the worst, but was surprised by what he discovered. "I came in, expecting to pick up glass and debris all day, but it was already done. There was a volunteer army cleaning up our shop," he says. Local residents and shopkeepers were helping one another recover, doing what they could to reverse the violence of the previous night. This allowed his staff to focus on providing supplies to assist in other local cleanup efforts. They did sell items during the recovery, but also donated materials to help their neighborhood bounce back. "We've got shovels, we've got brooms, let's just get stuff in people's hands and we'll figure it all out later," Fried says. He says there was some debate over whether to charge for these items, but "the only way you can worry about next month is by being open next month." As he inspected the store, Fried noted the damage to the property was costlier than the items taken. Looters stole a few pieces of high-priced power equipment as well as inexpensive items like cigarette lighters and mousetraps, but had bored a hole through an adjacent laundromat to access his store and broken every window throughout the night. Take Charge of Minor Repairs In the following days, insurance companies were overwhelmed by claims, and glass companies were reluctant to replace windows, fearing other riots might flare up and destroy their work. Fried recommends store owners remain patient and take charge of any minor repairs they may need. Students from a nearby school volunteered to decorate the plywood that temporarily covered Belle Hardware's windows, a small act that helped unite volunteers and business owners. "Except for the glass, I didn't have to rely on anyone to come out and service anything. I did a lot of the repairs myself," Fried says. Sales were sluggish in the days following the riots, as Baltimore residents were hesitant to venture out of their homes, but returned to normal levels within three months, he says. Fried is proud his hardware store was able to recover quickly and provide supplies to other merchants for their cleanup efforts. He recommends hardware retailers not lose sight of what truly matters following a catastrophe. "There's nothing in this building that's worth the life of my employees or anyone I know," Fried says. After rioters broke the front window of Belle Hardware in Baltimore, students from a local school decorated the temporary plywood.

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