The special fund created to help budding businesses in Virginia operate during the coronavirus pandemic now is shifting some of its money to help small companies impacted from protests that have turned violent and destructive in recent days.
The Virginia 30 Day Fund, created in early April, is earmarking at least $100,000 to fund eligible small businesses in Virginia each with a $3,000 forgivable loan.
"Just at a time when small businesses were just starting to be optimistic and have more hope about their businesses and then they get hit by the horrible violent folks that disgrace the real work that peaceful protestors are doing," said technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder, who co-founded the Virginia 30 Day Fund.
"Rather than allowing the violent few to tear down what others have built, we will come together with our fellow Virginians to heal our commonwealth,” said Snyder, also the CEO of Disruptor Capital, a Northern Virginia-based venture capital firm. "If you are impacted by this or you were hurt or injured, we are going to help out. It doesn't take a brick through your window to be impacted and ask us for help."
The fund gave its initial $3,000 grant to Waller & Co. Jewelers on East Broad Street in downtown Richmond, which had been repeatedly vandalized and looted over the weekend.
The store, a fixture on Broad Street for 120 years, had windows smashed in by a brick early Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, looters broke the store's glass door and windows and came into the store, smashing display cases and taking merchandise such as Citizen watches and jewelry. The high-end jewelry was locked in a safe.
The grant will help pay for some of the damages to the store, said David Waller, the fourth generation of his family to run the shop along with his brother and their father.
"It is a blessing that I heard about them [the fund] and the money they have given us will be beneficial for us to help cover our expenses to the damage that was done. This has been fantastic help," Waller said.
Snyder, who has been publicly considering a bid for the Republican nomination for governor next year, said protesting is important in the U.S. but Americans can’t tolerate violent protests. "We should not tolerate the murder of black citizens - or any Americans - by police nor should we tolerate violent protest and the burning of our cities," Snyder said.
The Virginia 30 Day Fund is looking at other applications from small businesses that have experienced property damage and theft in recent days from the rioting and vandalism. "We expect to get flooded over the next couple of days from businesses who will want to apply," Snyder said.
To qualify, businesses must employ three to 30 people; be based in Virginia and have operated for at least one year; and be owned and operated by a Virginia resident.
The fund has raised $1.7 million since early April when Snyder and his wife, Burson, kicked it off by infusing the nonprofit with $100,000 of their own money.
Since then, the fund has given grants to about 305 small businesses in Virginia - about 35 of them in the Richmond region, Snyder said.
The grants for those impacted by the riots primarily will go to small businesses in Richmond, he said. "We are saying Virginia businesses because we don't know what will happen in other parts of the state."
GoFundMe campaigns have been created to financially help some Richmond business owners rebuild from the destruction.
For instance, Experimax of Richmond, a cell phone and computer retail store at 1307 W. Main St. near Virginia Commonwealth University's academic campus, was looted early Sunday morning.
Owner Leonard Blue, an Army veteran, said thieves took cell phones, tablets and laptop and desktop computers.
"Pretty much everything in our inventory," Blue said. "I am pretty much starting over. I don't have any inventory in my store."
Friends launched a GoFundMe campaign later on Sunday with an initial goal to collect $25,000. Nearly $32,000 had been raised by late Tuesday afternoon.
"I am grateful they did that for me," Blue said.
Some other businesses conducting GoFundMe campaigns include:
• Rumors Boutique, a vintage men's and women's clothing store on West Broad Street downtown, was damaged by looters. The shop has raised more than $35,000 of its $30,000 goal.
• Waller & Co. Jewelers has raised nearly $21,000 of its $50,000 goal.
• The Tech Exchange, a electronics store at 817 W. Cary St. that got looted, has raised nearly $11,000 of its $5,000 goal. Fifty percent of the funds collected will be donated to Boys & Girls Club of Metro Richmond.
• Balance Bicycle Shop on West Broad Street had looters stealing all of the store's merchandise and customers’ bikes. Owner Greg Milefsky said he wants to use the money to rebuild the shop. He has raised nearly $31,000 of his goal of $40,000.