As city officials and law enforcement prepared for possible protests Thursday, many local businesses have taken it upon themselves to do the same.
Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, protests have remained peaceful as of yet, with no reports of arrests or violence, but across the SCV, businesses could be seen boarding up windows and blocking entryways, hoping to thwart any looters who may arrive with the protesters.
Westfield Valencia Town Center officials announced Tuesday they had decided to move back the mall’s reopening, which had been set for Wednesday, as a precaution due to the planned protests at the nearby SCV Sheriff’s Station.
That same day, Manya Nazarian, co-owner of Manya Jewelers, and her husband decided to board up their store.
“We are very worried about being an outside jewelry store,” Nazarian said. “It’s all of our kids’ future in that store, so (we boarded) to be on the safe side. Even if they tried to break in, at least something stops them a little bit further.”
Nazarian says she was so excited to reopen Wednesday, though things quickly changed.
“I was looking forward to Wednesday, and all of a sudden we’re boarding instead of getting ready to open,” she added. “At least I was doing curbside (pickup) for the last week or so; but now I can’t even do that, (because) I can’t get into my store.”
While she respects the decision to push back the reopening, it doesn’t make things easier for her business, which is still trying to recover from the monthslong shutdown.
“So many people lost their own jobs that jewelry is not a priority in their life; but whoever could afford to support, they got gift cards, they ordered stuff for Christmas now just so they could support a small business,” she said. “I am blessed that I have that kind of customer, but everyone’s hurting, and we’re hurting obviously. It’s going to take some time until everything gets to normal. I don’t even know what normal is anymore.”
Some of their customers have even offered to come help protect the store if the need arises, Nazarian said.
“Emotionally, I’m a wreck until all of this is over, but to see all of the love and support is very touching,” she added. “We live here, we work here, we’re a small business … The community needs to stand together and stay positive.”
About a mile south, Sunny Optometry in Granary Square has also decided to board up its storefront after its Santa Monica location was destroyed by the riots Sunday.
“Amid the start of a protest in downtown Santa Monica, all day we helplessly witnessed our life’s work vandalized, stolen and burned,” owners Dr. Alice Sun and Dr. Daniel Sjolund wrote in a prepared statement sent out to patients via email. “The looters were so thorough they stole everything, including receipt paper, pennies and lint in our drawers before setting it all ablaze.”
This came just two weeks after they had reopened, and now they must once again close until further notice to repair the extensive vandalism.
They’ve started a GoFundMe, which has already raised more than $50,000, but the owners decided not to take any chances here in the SCV, quickly boarding up the store as a precaution.
Even further south on Main Street in Newhall, more businesses could be seen boarding up.
“I’m already boarded up just to take a precaution and as preventative,” said Don MacKenzie, owner of Mac’s Pool & Spa Supply. “I don’t think they would break into a pool store, but to replace all the glass if they were vandalizing would cost more than the board-up.”
MacKenzie says hopefully the looters, if any, won’t be coming down to Main Street, but his shop is across from the Newhall Metrolink station, so he wanted to be prepared.
“The protesters are fine, but unfortunately the bad guys are getting involved in the good guys’ crowd,” MacKenzie said. “They’re just out to loot and riot.”
Also located on Main Street, Renee Kennedy, owner of Earthbaby Boutique, says she can’t afford to board up after the pandemic.
“At this point, I feel like my whole business’s future seems to be out of my control completely,” Kennedy said. “It’s been three months almost with no income. Mmeanwhile I’m still paying utilities and insurance, etc. We are in the negative.”
Her second store location in Sherman Oaks is in an area that has been hit hard by looters.
“We are boarded and secured there and also have a huge locked gate — my landlord covered that and also hired armed guards,” she said, adding that she hasn’t decided what to do here in SCV, though she trusts in local law enforcement to have the best interest of small businesses in mind.
“I’m feeling sad and very stressed as a business owner,” she added, “especially also being married to a police officer for years.”
Even so, Kennedy believes the protesting is very necessary, and said she’s praying for the best and the safety of all.
Similarly, Carlos Marroquin, owner of Planet Soccer, which is also located on Main Street, says he didn’t board his windows because he can’t afford to do so.
“Obviously, everybody is worried here,” Marroquin said Wednesday. “I will be here tomorrow, but if something happens, it happens. I have nothing more but only to pray, pray for us, for the whole downtown Newhall.”
Marroquin’s store was closed for 65 days exactly, with no income at all, due to the pandemic.
“It’s still very slow because nobody is playing soccer right now, so when people come in to buy something it’s for loyalty and they want to support me,” he added. “So, believe me, if somebody comes inside the store and takes everything away, it will be the end of Planet Soccer for sure.”
Even so, he remains positive, hoping everything will be OK, though shops all around him are boarded.
“Nobody (broke into) my shop in 16 years, so hopefully this time we keep the record,” Marroquin added. “I think it will be very peaceful, and I’m sure there will be a lot of police in this area as well.”
Nearby, Mascot Aesthetics owner Liz Carey says her truck is loaded up with boards and supplies.
“I, in the meantime, pulled a lot of my inventory out just to try and protect what I can,” Carey said. “We’re definitely worried about it, but I’m really hoping for things to just be peaceful … I think it’s best to be safe rather than sorry in this, but we don’t really know which way to go. I think we’re kind of waiting to see how the day unfolds.”
With a lot of misinformation floating around, Carey says she’s been following the city and law enforcement’s lead, as well as that of her fellow store owners.
“Our community of neighbors, we’re all pretty tight down there, so we all keep in touch with one another, seeing how everybody’s proceeding,” she added.
For Carey, this couldn’t have come at a worse time, as she had yet to reopen though given the green light to do so.
“We were waiting on all of our (personal protective equipment) and all of the things that we needed to responsibly open to the public, and literally just today I picked all of that up, and we were gearing up to open … so it’s a bit of a low blow.”
Still, she remains hopeful things will remain peaceful. “We’re hoping for the best, but preparing for the possibilities, just hoping everything stays peaceful. That’s all we can hope for.”