CHICAGO (CBS) — Business owners on the city’s West Side were devastated by looting and vandalism over the weekend, and face major challenges in restoring and reopening.
Siri Hibbler of the West Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce spent the day with business owners from her community. She talked with CBS 2’s Jim Williams and Irika Sargent on Monday.
“The business owners are hurting. They are hurting. It was very, very devastating to walk through there today and see how their stores have been just ravaged and just destroyed. It is very heartbreaking. We were already struggling to get people to come and shop in our area there at Madison and Pulaski, and to get big box retailers to even pay it any attention and to try to develop it, and so now, we just don’t know what’s going to happen, because they are at a total loss,” Hibbler said. “Pretty much all of the stores were hit, pretty bad.”
The stores were already closed for the coronavirus pandemic going back to mid-March. Now, the economic impact they are facing is even worse, Hibbler said.
“They’ve been looking forward to opening. It’s been really tough for them, but now, I’m not sure. This is going to impact them tremendously, as we are not part of the INVEST South/West package that the mayor is putting out there. Garfield Park was not on that list. So there is nothing for us to get excited about with regards to developing or rebuilding anything there in our communities,” she said. “And the Madison and Pulaski area is the shopping area for the West Side of Chicago west of Western. So you know, right now, economically, it has impacted the businesses where, they don’t even know when they’re going to be able to restock and reopen at this point, even if the city reopens in June 3.”
Hibbler also noted that it was difficult getting people to come to Madison and Pulaski to shop before the unrest or the pandemic.
“They definitely need all the help they can get financially – that’s for certain – because they already had a low amount of people actually shopping there in the area, because we have been working so hard to clean it up from the drug abuse and so forth, and so people were very uncomfortable to try to shop there,” she said. “So we were holding events like our Taste of Madison last year to just try to show the people around the city that, you know, Madison and Pulaski is a safe place. You can come over there and shop. The quality of clothes are excellent, and so right now, they really just need financial support. They need to be able to just have something built around in the area.”
For one thing that can help, the Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce recently announced the COVID-19 African-American relief fund, and the chamber will be contacting about 32 businesses to let them know they received that award, Hibbler said.