SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Downtown Sacramento businesses are struggling to stay open after facing unexpected challenges in 2020, including a declining national economy and a deadly pandemic.
The latest challenge of protecting their businesses against looting might have made some business owners give up.
But for one Sacramento bookstore, they are finding the will to stay open.
“We just felt that we didn’t want to be silent today, that that was not our particular role in the community,” Heidi Rojek told FOX40. She co-owns Capital Books along with her husband Ross Rojek.
On Tuesday, after three nights of weekend protests resulted in an 8 p.m. curfew Monday manned by the National Guard, Heidi set up a window display of books that promote understanding between people of different backgrounds and races.
“We pride ourselves in having a lot of books on that,” said Heidi.
The shop recently celebrated it’s one-year anniversary while the doors were locked because of COVID-19.
“Yeah it was a non-anniversary,” laughed Heidi.
Capital Books was able to stay in business through online ordering and shipping.
When time came to reopen to the public, the owners had to make some changes to defend against COVID-19.
“We’re only allowing one person or one family in at a time so that we‘re staying safe,” explained Heidi.
They never imagined they would have to defend their shop against widespread looting and vandalism.
“It was just a scary night,” said Heidi.
Seeing the chaos unfolding on the Sunday night news, Heidi and Ross came downtown and bravely defended their shop, not with weapons or even aggression but with neighborly kindness.
“At one point when the tear gas was being deployed, all the protesters were running from the Capitol towards K Street,” recalled Heidi. “And so, a lot of them were suffering from the tear gas, so we let them come in and recover from that.”
“You know, we’re letting kids in to protect themselves from tear gas, talking to people as they’re walking past, giving them water, letting them use the bathroom. Making sure that when somebody does break a window nearby that I can call the owner and make sure that they know so that they can get it fixed before the morning. That sort of thing,” explained Ross.
While a number of surrounding businesses were left in shambles that night, the bookstore was not damaged.
Heidi and Ross said they support the protests and they draw a distinction between protesters and looters.
“I mean the protesters know what’s right and wrong. It’s the kids that are hiding in there that don’t or don‘t care,” said Ross.
The common theme FOX40 has heard from shop owners over the past few days is how much they are going to rely on the support of the community over the weeks to come.
“Mom-and-pop shops, family-owned businesses, we’re not large corporations,” explained Heidi. “When you damage stuff, even a window, that’s your insurance deductible and these businesses have already been so hard hit by COVID that this is insult to injury right now.”