Last year’s rioting along King Street battered the heart of Charleston’s shopping and entertainment district and shook residents’ sense of safety on our streets. It also hurt business owners’ livelihoods, many of which also were decimated by the pandemic and still face a daunting recovery.
We need to hear more from city leaders about how they plan to resuscitate the struggling shops, restaurants and bars — at least those that haven’t already shuttered permanently.
But amid this economic uncertainty, some positive news quietly emerged recently with the reopening of the Family Dollar at 478 Meeting St., a store that was closed for almost a year after rioters set it ablaze.
The destructive night of rioting in downtown Charleston in the wake of national protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd unfolded mostly along King Street. The city’s high-profile shopping and entertainment area was the understandable focus of most of the media coverage.
But one of the most damaged stores that night was the Family Dollar, which was more than a block away from the other looted businesses. No other store better exemplified how pointless and counterproductive that chaos actually was to the community and its residents.
Those protesting that day ostensibly were supportive of advancing racial justice and equity in light of the egregious death of an African American at the hands of a white police officer. The vast majority of protesters did just that. But several hundred lingered into the night to wreak havoc and violence on the city.
But by burning and looting the Family Dollar, the most delinquent of these protesters shut down one of the businesses most vital to the East Side, the neighborhood that a large number of downtown Charleston’s African American residents call home.
When the Bi-Lo supermarket closed its doors a few years ago just a stone’s throw away, city leaders scrambled to help East Side residents continue to find access to food and other staples of daily life. A bus line was even altered to help them out.
But with Bi-Lo gone, Family Dollar became even more important to those who did not have access to a vehicle and relied on the store as a lifeline for daily necessities within easy walking distance. Its prolonged closure made life more difficult for many of those on whose behalf protesters say they were trying to support.
Fortunately, Dollar Tree committed to reopening. Its repair and remodeling took longer and probably cost much more than repairing most of the other damage on nearby King Street, but the company should be praised for following through on its promise.
The city has taken some steps to help King Street merchants, but it will require an intensive, focused effort to revive that critical part of the city’s economy. In the meantime, the quiet reopening of the Family Dollar is a sign that at least some of the scars from that night of violence have healed.