by Nancy Stiles
Paul's Market (1020 Elizabeth Street, Ferguson; 314-524-3652) isn't giving up on its community. Owner Gary Crump has been working there since he was nine years old, helping out the family business. Now he's calling for local contractors, suppliers and others to help local business owners rebuild.
"54 years we've been in Ferguson, and I feel particularly attached to the area," Crump tells us. "Everything that's happened -- as tragic as it is -- I have to look at it as in the past and put in the rear-view mirror."
Instead of leaving Ferguson, Crump is planning a $50,000 renovation of Paul's Market in 2015; he hopes it will help reinvigorate the community. Crump makes it clear that he isn't asking for help out of his own customers' pockets, but rather for their support and their business.
Crump plans to buy 32 feet of gravity-flow meat cases; Paul's has been using its current meat refrigerators for 37 years. "So we've taken pretty good care of them I'd say," he laughs. He also wants to update the lighting. The current eight-foot fluorescent lights are expensive to run.
"All of us here, working in Ferguson, are looking for what we like to refer to as a 'Ferguson discount,' from the suppliers and repair people," Crump says, "and see what we can do to get this thing rolling a little faster and easier and relieve the financial pressure on our city and business owners, because the tax revenue just fell off the cliff."
Crump says many of his regular customers who came from all over the county are now too afraid to come to Ferguson because of what they've seen in the media. But he maintains that the Ferguson he knows is a beautiful place with people who'd give you the shirt off their backs.
"These gentlemen came in last night that looked -- how do I say it -- a little rough, and they said, 'Anybody in here got any kids?'" he says. "They had a truck full of toys for Christmas to give to Ferguson workers' kids."
Other businesses in Ferguson have been echoing Crump's statements -- Ferguson Burger Bar kept its doors open throughout the unrest and continue to do so. Dellena Jones, who owns 911 Hair Salon, was vandalized and looted, and she has also seen her business dropping severely. But she isn't going anywhere, either.
"As far as living in a community together, we need to take our differences and be civil about them," Crump says. "There's a justifiable, righteous anger, and the opposite of that is rage. What we experienced was rage. I'm trying to turn the page and begin a positive approach to improvement, and I'm doing it by serving [people]."
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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