Social Issues

Boarded-up Storefronts Become Canvas of Healing

Boarded-up storefronts are being turned into pieces of art as business owners pick up the pieces from vandalism during protests.

By Trevor Keller | Here & Now

June 4, 2020 • Southeast Region

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A boarded-up storefront has been repainted to say stronger together.

A boarded-up storefront has been repainted to say "stronger together" on this State Street business. Photo / Trevor Keller.

Take a walk down State Street in downtown Madison, and practically every business and storefront is boarded up. Following peaceful protests Saturday, Sunday and Monday, looters vandalized dozens of stores on the pedestrian-friendly street.

Cory Correia owns Isthmus Tattoo & Social Club. He was working Saturday when the first round of vandalism began. He says he kept his business safe, but Goodman’s Jewelers next door sustained severe damage.

Boarded-up storefront

Boarded-up storefront. Photo / Trevor Keller.

“As soon as we saw stuff going on, we just kind of went to the door, went to the windows, held people off from getting in, and they just kind of went next door,” Correia said.

Stop & Shop convenience store was vandalized twice. Owner Mehtab Farooqui says the worst of the looting was done by teenagers taking advantage of the protests.

“I support the cause completely, but the looting and stuff, I feel like there’s no need for that,” Farooqui said.

Fontana Sports was founded in 1949 and is a downtown Madison fixture. They were vandalized multiple times this week, but early Tuesday morning a group of looters broke into the store and caused catastrophic damage. They posted this surveillance video on their Facebook page.

Despite the vandalism, they also posted that they supported the protests:

“I hope everyone knows us well enough to know that just because we are heartbroken over our family business being ruined, it doesn’t mean that we are not also heartbroken about the racial injustice in our country. George Floyd was murdered and deserves justice. Black lives matter. Period. Even with the vandalism, business owners, including Fontana Sports, have expressed support for the protests.”

That sentiment was repeated by several downtown business owners, including Correia and Farooqui. Laura Komai co-owns Anthology, a paper and craft shop on State Street. Her store wasn’t damaged, but she feels for those who’ve spent the week cleaning up. She supports the protests.

“We totally understand the anger and sorrow that people are expressing,” Komai said, “We understand that we personally have work to do to be better.”

In response to the vandalism, Komai’s shop was one of many to take part in a street-wide project to turn the boarded-up storefronts into art. Tuesday and Wednesday artists worked their way up and down State Street painting murals. Komai’s store teamed with neighboring business Little Luxuries on a joint mural with the message “Stronger Together.”

Vandalized store

Books and glass are strewn about the floor of a vandalized Warby Parker. Photo / Trevor Keller.

“I think our window speaks to what we believe in,” Komai said, “We’re all here together and I think that our togetherness is where our strength is.”

Statement to the Communities We Serve

There is no place for racism in our society. We must work together as a community to ensure we no longer teach, or tolerate it.  Read the full statement.