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Local, small business owners reflect one year after downtown riots

Jacks damaged
Posted at 9:42 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 22:56:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS — It has been a little more than a year since protesters took to the streets of Indianapolis after the death of George Floyd.

People all across the country, as well as Indianapolis, fought for justice after his death, but things took a dangerous and destructive turn after dark.

Small business owners across the area said damage from that weekend set them behind as they tried to stay afloat and recover through the pandemic.

They watched Friday and Saturday nights as the businesses they worked so hard to build were damaged.

“My shop was the first to go down that night so it was very devastating,” said Chris Karnavas, owner of Jack’s Donuts downtown.

Things are getting back to normal now, but he still has vivid memories from those nights last summer. He watched as people smashed his windows, went inside, destroyed his equipment and stole from the store.

“It was like this isn't really happening and it was,” Karnavas said.

He said it was a rough hit that came at the worst time.

“Just one thing after another. Every single day came with a new adventure… all of last summer was just an adventure. You just didn't know from the pandemic, the riots, to the homeless, I mean it was just one thing after another that we dealt with,” he added.

“I definitely think it was the icing on the cake and something that created a landslide,” said George Stergiopoulos, partner and manager of Giorgio's Pizza.

He said he understands the hurt and frustration, but he doesn’t understand the property damage.

“Let's not mix the protest up with the riots. I mean people have a hard time separating those two things, but during the week of protests and during the daytime of protests we didn't have any problems. There were families out here, they had a qualm and they came out to express themselves. I'm a firm believer in that. I have no problem with that, that's what America is about… so yeah, we don't want to group all that together,” Stergiopoulos said. “The people that were here Monday through Friday during the day were mad and upset too, but they didn't leave marks all over the city of Indianapolis.”

Those physical marks have all since been repaired, but downtown’s reputation and the vibrancy it once saw, some argue, is still a work in progress.

“We’ve dropped the ball on maintaining downtown. I've seen downtown go from a ghost town to something really special to back to kind of a ghost town, and we are not taking care of it. It is time that we step up and it's time for our leadership to step up,” Stergiopoulos added.

Others are also hoping to see local leaders step up and improve downtown

“We are still feeling the impact of the pandemic. I think the riots and all that, I think that's behind us. I'm hoping that's all behind us. I’m hoping that we never have to board up again,” Karnavas said.

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