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How to help Lake Street's small businesses

Lake Street Council in Minneapolis has set up a fund to help small businesses rebuild their storefronts after a night of destruction.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Business owners along Lake Street in south Minneapolis spent Thursday cleaning up debris and boarding up windows after a night of protests, fires, looting and damage. 

Lake Street Council has set up a fund to help support the small businesses impacted overnight. The website states that "100% of donations will go toward helping the Lake Street small business community rebuild their storefronts."

The destruction comes after the death of George Floyd. Protests started after a video showed a Minneapolis police officer placing his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd repeatedly said, "I can't breathe" until he was unresponsive. 

RELATED: 'Everybody loved Floyd': Remembering George Floyd

Among the businesses destroyed overnight was Seward Pharmacy on Lake Street. 

Elias Usso opened the pharmacy with his wife last September. Now, they're having to start over. 

"It's a sad thing. I never thought this would happen," Usso said. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Usso estimates they're dealing with more than a half-million dollars worth of damages.

Looters stole a safe—first setting the area on fire. They also stole most of the medications. 

Thursday morning, Usso was reaching out to other pharmacies to see who could help his patients who need their prescriptions now. 

"That is my biggest concern of all. I mean can you imagine going without your insulin?" Usso said. 

They are looking for a temporary location where they can dispense medications. Usso estimates they're dealing with more than a half-million dollars worth of damages. 

RELATED: Business owners witness break-ins, fires and car thefts during Wednesday night riots

But he also said he's thinking of George Floyd and his family. 

"I'm concerned about the loss of life that occurred," Usso said. 

Across the street, Pineda Tacos was already facing the challenge of running a restaurant amid COVID-19. People tried to set Pineda Tacos on fire but their sprinkler system saved the placed. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Some people tried to set Pineda Tacos on fire Wednesday night.

"It's unfortunate. It's so sad... We are lucky that at least we just have to clean and fix a little things here and there compared to other places that actually got completely burned down," said employee Eduardo Pineda. 

Before the pandemic, Pineda was a sous chef in downtown Minneapolis. Then when everything shut down, he had to look for something else. He's not sure when Pineda Tacos will reopen but said he hopes they can as soon as possible. 

"I also stand for George but this is not justice," Pineda said. 

Many community members volunteered to pick up trash and debris. 

Julie Messina lives nearby and wanted to help. 

"The 'why' I think gets lost a lot and we just see the shocking images and it's really easy to forget why it happened. We can't forget that there was 400 years of slavery, that there was Jim Crow. We can't forget those things and until we actually look those in the face, these things are going to continue to happen. If you really want things to change, then you need to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how you can help make it better instead of just judging what's happening," Messina said. 

Some business owners in south Minneapolis spent the night trying to protect their businesses from looters. Thursday night as more destruction spread, some businesses placed signs in their windows letting people know they were a minority-owned business. 

Usso said, "It's a tragedy, a tragedy across Lake Street and I think we all hurt." 

Have you heard of ways the community is helping impacted businesses? Send your tips to Heidi Wigdahl at hwigdahl@kare11.com. 

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