FERGUSON • After spending her life as a homemaker raising her three sons, Jeniece Andrews, 47, decided three years ago to live out her dream and become a business owner.
She opened an antiques store, Hidden Treasures, in her hometown of Ferguson with items she’s collected since her childhood.
Monday night, she watched her dream go up in smoke.
“I drove up and saw my business all burned up, and it broke my heart,” Andrews said. “I broke down. I didn’t expect it.”
Business owners and residents of Ferguson were reeling Tuesday from the mayhem that followed the nighttime release of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. At least 17 businesses in and around Ferguson were looted, damaged or burned.
Many were left shocked at the extent of the damage, which was worse than the chaos that followed the actual shooting on Aug. 9.
“Last time, my store didn’t even get looted,” Andrews said.
Before setting it ablaze, looters stole items from her store at 220 North Florissant Road. Little Caesars, which shares the same building, was also destroyed by the fire.
“I didn’t think things would be like this,” said the pizza franchise owner, Doyle Beck, 47. “This is my family business. My son helps manage this place. I employ 10 to 15 local residents of Ferguson, some who go to college, and some who this is their only job.”
Business owners said Tuesday they thought law enforcement was prepared for the grand jury decision and would able to prevent a repeat of the damage to businesses that took place after Brown’s death. Gov. Jay Nixon had declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the grand jury decision and said the National Guard would be ready if needed.
Yon Kim, an employee of Beauty World on South Florissant, sobbed in front of her beauty supply store as customers came by to offer hugs. This was the first time the store had been damaged.
“I’m just so scared and sad,” said Kim, 48. “All in my mind is the governor saying they prepared, that the National Guard will try to protect residents and businesses. Where was the National Guard?”
On Tuesday, the governor ordered more National Guard troops to the area.
A few doors down, the owner of Natalie’s Cakes & More was trying to catch up on orders after bricks were thrown through her window, sending glass into pastry boxes. Natalie DuBose, 32, of Ferguson, said she wasn’t sure if more could have been done to protect businesses.
“I don’t know what to think,” she said. “It hasn’t settled in what has happened.”
Smoke from the ruins was still rising Tuesday evening above West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson and Dellwood. Owners of businesses that weren’t burned out were vowing to hang on, but wondering if they could.
At the Dellwood Mobil Mart, owner Phil Harburt was showing customers videotapes of looters raiding his store early that morning, grabbing alcohol and snacks from the racks before police chased them out. He pointed out a blood stain on the floor where a looter had tripped before police grabbed him.
Harburt had restocked his shelves by mid-afternoon, replaced the boards that looters ripped from his window and reopened for business. He vowed to stay at the corner of West Florissant near Chambers.
“They have no other place to go. This is where they get food, gas,” Harburt said.
Across the street, Doria Daniels was pushing a broom outside the broken windows of a fire-damaged chop suey restaurant near the burned-out ruins of the Devine Beauty shop. Daniels lives nearby and listened in fear to Monday night’s chaos.
“How do I explain this to our children and grandkids who live here?” she wondered.
Kurt Banks, whose family owns the Complete Auto Body & Repair shop on West Florissant, had not boarded the building before Monday’s trouble.
“We trusted our community and thought everything would be good,” he said. “We were wrong.”
Looters burst through the windows and set fire to the office early Tuesday. An ambulance crew from Christian Hospital stopped, chased the looters and put out the fire.
Business owners, both black and white, argued that they had nothing to do with the Michael Brown case and shouldn’t have been targeted.
“You’re messing up a business. What about the workers? Now they don’t have a job, and the holidays are coming up,” said Tayra Smith, who runs the Image of You beauty salon on West Florissant. “They’re just being greedy. You don’t get justice out of breaking into a business.”
In the Wellspring United Methodist Church near much of the looting on South Florissant, psychologist Marva Robinson was on hand Tuesday to talk to families dropping in for food and activities for children. Robinson was at the church until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday caring for demonstrators who had sought shelter after police released a barrage of tear gas and smoke on crowds.
“People were traumatized, wandering in, in disbelief,” she said. They told Robinson they were peacefully demonstrating and were caught off guard. “It happened so quickly and unexpectedly,” she said.
Owners and residents were comforted by the throngs of volunteers who showed up Tuesday to help them clean up their city.
“This is the Ferguson community. When something happens, everyone is there to help each other,” said Maria Flores, 66, whose restaurant, El Palenque, was damaged.
Volunteers boarded up her broken windows and swept up glass. The School Sisters of Notre Dame, which serves the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Church that Flores attends, dropped by to promise a $1,000 donation.
Bart Bouchein, 44, of west St. Louis County, was inspired to come help clean up. When he arrived in Ferguson, he was choked with emotion at the sight of so many others like him. “For every one looter, there are 1,000 people willing to help,” he said.
But disappointment, fear and uncertainty were the ruling emotions.
Harburt planned to barricade the door of his Mobil Mart from the inside and leave through the roof Tuesday evening. Banks said he planned to stay in his auto body shop all Tuesday night, and he’ll be armed.
Kim at Beauty World wondered, “When will it end?”