Villa in downtown GR remains positive despite damage

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite dealing with destruction and stolen merchandise after Saturday’s riots, employees at Villa Clothing Store in downtown Grand Rapids are focused on staying positive and grateful.

The store, situated on the southeast corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue, was the first to experience damage when things turned from peaceful to violent Saturday night.

Around 9 p.m., someone shattered the store’s front entrance. Almost as soon as glass fell to the ground, peaceful protesters rushed to block the front entrance, yelling at people to stop.

“I thank whoever stood up and did what they did,” Villa manager Melvin Stewart told News 8 Sunday afternoon. “It’s amazing that there’s certain people out there that’s willing to help through this time.”

As News 8 spoke with Stewart, several people stopped by asking if the store needed any additional help. Many carrying brooms and other cleaning supplies.

“They helped tremendously. It was perfect. It was right on time, as soon as we got here, it was up and down the street just asking, ‘Can I help?’” Stewart added.

A photo shared by Stewart on social media Saturday night shows the mess inside the store.

One Facebook post shared the photo, saying “this is a BLACK owned business that was vandalized (hours after our protest ended). This is why we wanted a peaceful protest. We hurt the ones we were supposed to protect.”

Stewart said he’s focused on staying positive and did not want to pass judgement on anyone who was in Grand Rapids Saturday night.

“Honestly, it’s tough to process. I can’t even process the damage just anywhere downtown,” he said. “Whatever’s going on in the world, just keep it, you can’t tell people how to feel. That’s not something I would preach to anyone. I would just say, ‘Hey handle things how you handle things. Just be an adult about it.’”

Employees were supposed to return to work Monday after being closed since mid-March due to the pandemic. For now, they’re focused on recovering and getting back open.