ALEXANDRIA, Va.—C-stores have remained opened during the COVID-19 pandemic as essential businesses, and now, some are finding themselves facing a new threat—looting and vandalism in the wake of protests across the U.S. sparked by the recent death of a Minneapolis man in police custody. Amid the chaos, there is kindness, too, as residents pitch in to help some stricken businesses clean up following several nights of unrest.
Weekend protests that began peacefully turned chaotic as evening fell. Store windows were smashed, businesses were looted and police vehicles were burned in jurisdictions around the country, according to the Washington Post.
In Sacramento, California, a group of residents spontaneously showed up in a nearby business district to help 7-Eleven employees and other business operators clean up damage from the night before, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Local residents saw the need and went to work. “As the protests got violent, we saw the destruction in our city,” neighbor Aref Aziz told a Sacramento Bee reporter. “A bunch of us residents showed up randomly at 5 and 6 a.m. just to make things better for the people who live here. This is our city, and we respect the beauty of Sacramento.”
Saturday night riots in Duluth, Minnesota, resulted in a local Kwik Trip being attacked by several people in the parking lot, reports KBJR6. The following day, the Duluth Chapter of the Themadones, a biker group, arrived at the store. Although no protests were underway at the time, the group stood watch and escorted employees to their cars at the end of their shifts.
The Kwik Trip is a frequent stop for the bikers, and they wanted to be on hand to keep employees safe, Joe Miller, a member of the group, told a KBJR6 reporter.
“We are here to make sure the employees get to their vehicles safe, after watching the video from last night. We come here all the time, and they are all happy we are here to make sure everything went okay,” Miller said.
In Minneapolis, neighbors have banded together to help 36 Lyn Refuel Station remain open during the recent turmoil in the city, Lonnie McQuirter, director of operations, told the Washington Post. McQuirter, who is a NACS Board member, told the Post he has been napping during the daytime and standing watch over his store with his neighbors as nighttime protests have raged in his city. (Read more about McQuirter’s community-focused c-store in “A Better Place” in the April 2018 issue of NACS Magazine.)
Elsewhere, in the state, several Speedway convenience stores were damaged in St. Paul, Minnesota, and one was set on fire, according to Myvillager.com.
In Pennsylvania, a Wawa store at 12th and Market streets in Philadelphia, was torched Saturday night, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Wawa said in a statement to the newspaper that it was assessing the damage but didn’t share details about when the store would reopen.
In downtown Dallas, Texas, rioters broke the windows of a 7-Eleven but didn’t steal anything, according to World Magazine.
In St. Louis last night, vandals set fire to a 7-Eleven at 17th Street and Pine Street in the city, FOX2Now reported.
Helping convenience store operators prepare for and respond to unexpected situations and other emergencies is covered in the NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aid Evaluation and Convenience Store Job Aids. NACS members can download the guides here.