Gabriel Toribio’s dream was always to open his own business before he turned 20. He and his business partner, Jezmani Kraus, had been reselling sneakers — sometimes to each other — since they were both 13 years old. In November 2019, the pair opened Laa Tiendaa, a sneaker and streetwear shop, in Malden. They opened Laa Tiendaa to be a community-based retail store that would provide opportunities and give back to the people it served. They had just turned 20.
Early on the morning of Monday, June 1, two groups damaged and looted Laa Tiendaa. Toribio said the first group threw a rock through the window, and left after the alarm sounded. A second group arrived several hours later, entered the store, and took what Toribio estimates to be from $8,000 to $10,000 worth of product.
“We really couldn’t believe it for a second,” said Toribio. “We were happy that nobody was there in the process, no one got hurt.”
Several other sneaker stores throughout Boston were damaged or looted as part of the violence that followed the George Floyd protests on May 31. WCVB aired live footage of looters leaving Concepts on Boylston Street with sneaker boxes and jackets, and Laced lost over $75,000 worth of merchandise, according to the Boston Globe. Despite the losses, both shops came forward in support of the protests.
On the morning following Laa Tiendaa’s damages, the community rallied around Toribio and Kraus. A GoFundMe was set up to help the business reopen and has since raised over $7,000, which will be used to refund the owners of the items they were selling on consignment, replenish their stock, fix damages to the store, and invest in a roll-down gate to protect the business in the future. Some of their stolen product included sneakers on consignment, which the store plans to fully compensate the owners. It’s still unclear to Toribio how much their insurance will cover losses.
“When you have this much support from all your friends, families, people from out of state supporting you that you know, it’s beautiful at the end of the day,” said Toribio. “It really strengthened my core to really work even harder for the community.”
Laa Tiendaa doesn’t have a set reopening date yet, but Toribio hopes to begin serving customers again with the next two weeks. Despite the challenges he and Kraus are facing, though, he still stands with the protesters.
“We understand why it’s happening. It’s been centuries and centuries and centuries…that their voices have not been heard at all,” said Toribio. “The last thing we want is for one of our friends, God forbid, to go to the other side of life just because of the [color of his skin]. It’s very sad. We stand with the people no matter what, and we agree with whatever we have to do to voice our opinions.”
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