Alex Segal had just come home from work. Saturday was a momentous milestone — Croft House was opening the doors to its showroom for the first time since the start of the coronavirus.
Croft House, a high-end furniture manufacturer and retailer, is located in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park, a stone’s throw away from the Fairfax District, where the Black Lives Matter protests started earlier in the afternoon.
After witnessing a few hours of peaceful demonstrations, Segal, 34, was at home watching the news with his wife. Soon, coverage showed the situation was escalating into violent altercations with the police and looters shattering glass and ransacking stores at The Grove, which is a mile-and-a-half away from his store. Croft House and hundreds of other stores were damaged and looted this past week, and many business owners expressed a general sense of fatigue after an adrenaline-driven time.
“I got to the store around 7 p.m. and the street started to get busier. I was sitting in the store with the lights out, watching everything go by. Someone spray painted the door, then I saw a rock come through the window. We have a protective screen on there, which held it together for a little while and slowly fell through the course of the night,” Segal told Yahoo Finance.
Within 10 minutes of the window falling, Segal, co-founder Riley Rea, their partners and a few friends used their own cars to create a barricade on the sidewalk, and watched the protesters go by throughout the evening.
“I figured our presence would dissuade any further damage,” he said. And Segal was right. There was only one person over the course of the evening who started to push the glass — who ultimately stepped back once he realized the owner was sitting right there. He was at the store assessing the damage until 5 a.m. and actually participated in the non-violent protest outside of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house on Tuesday.
Segal considers himself fortunate — to not only have been there but also to be selling products that aren’t easily lootable.
“I saw that on both sides of the street, people were running with arms full of stuff. Other furniture stores also had been smashed up, vandalized... and some smaller things were taken. Frankly, it’s not easy to grab and run with a several 100-pound table,” he said.
Many shop owners couldn’t even rely on the police for help, who were monitoring the protests that were happening concurrently.
“These looters are anarchists — adding confusion to an already confusing time. Everybody’s masked already so it’s hard to identify anyone. I’m 66 years old and I'm mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. And the worst part is... if the looting amplified the message that needs to be heard, i would have been able to handle it better,” said Doris Raymond, the owner of a vintage boutique.
Located four blocks south of Croft House, The Way We Wore has been in business for 40 years.
Focusing on the high-end segment, Raymond’s store is filled with designer clothing and accessories. The looters even broke into her office and took her personal collection of highly collectible jewelry from Mexican designers. She estimates that she’s lost $50,000 worth of goods.
“This was organized crime. When I checked the security tape, it was so organized, militaristic almost,” said Raymond. “First, someone came in and scoped, then they ran out and came back with sacks and large bags. They went straight to the jewelry case and poured four trays of jewelry into the sack — those things were worth $25,000 - $30,000 alone.”
The one-two punch of coronavirus and civil unrest has put businesses already fighting for survival on edge. Most have boarded up their buildings, and are waiting to replace the glass because of the uncertainty around whether additional violence may occur in the days and weeks to come.
“In March we faced what I thought was the hardest decision at the time. I had to lay off four people — half of my staff. I saw the handwriting on the wall. But they’re family — to be put in a position like that is heartbreaking,” said Raymond.
Segal, meanwhile had entered 2020 with ambitions to take 10-year-old Croft House beyond Los Angeles and open up a storefront on the east coast.
“Our plans are on hold until we see what the fall looks like. We still don’t know how much of a second wave is there. But New York is the apple of our eye. Getting a little more information will be critical for us. We’re projecting a pretty reduced sales figure through the end of the year and into the winter of 2021,” he said.
Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.