As the sun rose Tuesday on this battered and still-smoldering city, local business owners made their way to a commercial strip on South Florissant Road to begin picking up the pieces.
Shattered glass was on sidewalks and store floors. Men in construction boots boarded up holes where windows once stood. A charred rectangle scarred the pavement where a car had been burned.
Without knowing whether future nights would be marked by looting and violence again, business owners still had enough optimism to do what they could — along with a slew of volunteers — to get things cleaned up.
Many vowed to be back in business in the coming days.
“I’m open on Monday,” declared Cathy Jenkins, who owns the popular restaurant Cathy’s Kitchen, a block south of the Ferguson police station.
But there also was a sense of sadness about this latest chapter in a tragic year.
“(Looters are) hurting people that are innocent, that had nothing to do with this,” said Maria Flores, whose El Palenque restaurant suffered relatively minimal damage Monday night. “That’s where the sadness comes from.”
As many had feared, violence and looting exploded Monday night in the minutes following an announcement by St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch that a grand jury had declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Overnight, cars were set ablaze, countless shop windows were shattered and stores throughout the town were vandalized and looted. By morning, local law enforcement officials said, 12 buildings had burned and 150 shots had been fired throughout the city.
Though much of the violence would occur across town on West Florissant Avenue — not far from the Canfield Green Apartment complex in which Brown had lived — a good deal of it came on a mile or so stretch of South Florissant Road, near police headquarters, where hundreds had gathered to await McCulloch’s announcement.
And on Tuesday morning, those with businesses in the area began to arrive, wondering how to move forward.
A block or two north of the police station, Bak Lee, who owns a sizable beauty shop that was heavily damaged and looted, stood near the side of the building in silence.
He hadn’t put up protective boarding before Monday’s decision — an estimate he received said it would cost $4,000 to do so — and he now is forced to determine how to proceed.
His insurance company informed him Tuesday that he was only covered for $300,000, he said, though he estimated that his shop could have experienced as much as a million dollars in damage and losses.
Still, he said, he wasn’t angry. He was just worried about his employees, who for now had no work.
Across the street, where Kim Taylor has owned Ferguson Hardware for 15 years, a window was shattered and power tools were stolen.
One of the businesses that didn’t suffer any significant damage was the “I Love Ferguson” store.
A nonprofit whose proceeds go toward local businesses whose buildings have been damaged or destroyed as a result of protesting, the store hawks items adorned with the moniker “I (Heart) Ferguson.” So far, said Sandy Sansevere, one of the group’s various volunteers, the group has raised roughly $15,000, and on Tuesday it was bustling with foot traffic.
On Tuesday, some expressed frustration with recent events, though in some cases it seemed to be directed less at the parties responsible for the damage than the way government officials went about preparing for — and delivering — the grand jury announcement.
Jenkins, owner of Cathy’s Kitchen, wondered aloud whether the lead-up to the decision — including Gov. Jay Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency in Ferguson last week — could have played a role in the intensity of the reaction of some protesters. A front window was broken and already boarded up.
“They built it up,” said Jenkins, who has owned the restaurant for a little over a year. “They made it into a powder keg (when it) didn’t have to be one.”
Others took exception to Nixon, whose assurances that local businesses would be protected, in the eyes of some, didn’t come to fruition.
“Why we were not protected last night, I have no idea,” said Sansevere. “Nixon said he was going to protect businesses. And as you can see, he didn’t protect one business.”
As darkness approached again Tuesday, it brought a new wave of uncertainty.
The governor announced that he would be sending more National Guard troops to the St. Louis area in an effort to ward off a repeat of Monday’s fallout.
And though many business owners hoped for the best, with more protests on the horizon, there was still the feeling among some that the town’s unrest was far from over.