Jewelers React to Nationwide Protests, Looting

IndependentsJun 02, 2020

Jewelers React to Nationwide Protests, Looting

National Jeweler reached out to jewelers in Minneapolis and other cities where protests in response to the death of George Floyd have led to looting.

R.F. Moeller Jewelers, which has two stores in the Minneapolis area, has boarded up both locations following lootings on back-to-back days last week.

New York—Protests have arisen across the globe in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer pinned him to the ground during an arrest.

Demonstrators are rallying against racism and calling for accountability in the face of police violence following several high-profile cases of black people dying after encounters with law enforcement in recent years.

George Floyd’s brother Terrance Floyd (in the white shirt) visits the location where his brother was killed, now a memorial. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Lorie Shaull)
Amid the peaceful protestors are pockets of individuals who are setting fire to police vehicles and municipal buildings, and looting shopping districts throughout major cities, breaking into retailers large and small.

While some have condemned the looting as “opportunistic” and a detraction from the call for justice—there have been reports of extremists and white supremacists infiltrating the protests—others argue that peaceful protests have gone unheard.

National Jeweler reached out to jewelers with stores in areas where protests are taking place to check in and share their experiences.

In Minneapolis, where the protests started following Floyd’s death on May 25, R.F. Moeller Jewelers’ two stores were broken into and robbed.

“It’s pretty surreal. I don’t know anyone who sits and imagines themselves in this situation where their neighborhood is being looted and burned,” company President Bob Moeller said in an interview with National Jeweler.

The retailer’s Edina, Minnesota location was hit overnight Wednesday and boarded up the following day.

Moeller was at the St. Paul store Thursday afternoon when a local beat cop sent him a text warning that looters were heading toward the store.

He said he and his employees were rushing to get the jewelry into the safe when someone threw a rock through the window.

Moeller and his employees fled through the back door.

Later that night, a friend of Moeller’s contacted a construction company and asked if someone could stop by and board up the St. Paul store, said Moeller, adding he feared the location would be burned down after it was robbed.

R.F. Moeller Jewelers, a family-owned jeweler in St. Paul, Minnesota

The boards out front read: “No Jewelry Inside, BLM [Black Lives Matter],”which is both a plea to leave the store alone and a message of support for the cause at the heart of the protests.

Most of the stores’ inventory was moved into safes, but a few items were stolen,

though Moeller said he hasn’t yet calculated the amount of the loss.

The jeweler had reopened May 18 after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Moeller said he can’t say for sure when the stores would reopen in light of the current situation, estimating perhaps in the next few weeks.

In the nation’s capital, another hotbed of protests, Matt Rosenheim of Tiny Jewel Box is feeling fortunate yet troubled after evading a break-in Sunday night.

Between 20 to 30 individuals tried unsuccessfully to break into the family-owned jeweler, throwing bricks, concrete, trash cans, and poles at its windows for around five minutes, Rosenheim said in an email to National Jeweler.

He noted many of the businesses in the neighborhood were not as fortunate.

“I simply hope the violence and looting will end so we can focus on the very real and important issues facing our country and not be distracted by the unfortunate behavior of a small group of people,” he said.

In anticipation of continued protests in the city, Rosenheim said they will board up all 30 windows at the store and remain closed.

Rothstein Jewelers in Beverly Hills, California
In Beverly Hills, California, Rothstein Jewelers was broken into amid protests in the area, according to an email sent to National Jeweler.

The store announced a fundraising initiative on its Facebook page, asking customers to purchase gift cards if they’re able while the store undergoes repairs.

In Chicago, Steve Quick Jeweler had its windows, which were decorated with hearts in all colors of the rainbow as a show of love and support, smashed in.

The store boarded up its broken windows and still shared a message of hope, writing, “We still believe that love always wins.”

In the midst of the chaos, trade organizations have offered support and resources to the jewelry industry.

Jewelers of America and Diamond Council of America are in the process of reopening the Jewelers Relief Fund, an industry-wide fund established in 2017 to help jewelers in need.

To donate, visit the GoFundMe page. To request assistance, fill out this form.

In a letter to policyholders, Larry Spicer, vice president of loss prevention and risk management at Jewelers Mutual Group, shared advice for protecting stores.

“Act calmly but in a timely manner as these events can arise quickly,” he wrote, advising jewelers to lock their doors and move inventory to a safe or vault.

Make sure security systems and surveillance cameras inside and outside of the store are in working order, he added, and post store security materials to make it known such equipment is in place.

Jewelers Mutual may reach out to surveillance partners to secure especially at-risk areas, depending on the intel available, he said.

“While these current events are atypical for us as a company, when it comes to an event like this, there is a substantial amount of protection from Jewelers Mutual,” Jamie Luce, executive vice president of commercial lines, told National Jeweler.

Though coverage varies by policyholder, its Jewelers Block and Businessowners coverage “protects against situations such as looting and damage along with loss, subject to their coverage limits.”

In an email to members, the American Gem Society expressed its support to the community and stressed the importance of coming together.

“I know this is a trying period for all of us. The AGS community is filled with members willing to help each other,” wrote AGS President Katherine Bodoh.

The trade organization told National Jeweler members in St. Paul, Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama, and Bloomington, Illinois have been affected by either vandalism or robbery, but said it does not yet know how many members have sustained damage.

Outgoing AGS board President John Carter of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington posted to the group’s Facebook page, asking members to share extra jewelry store equipment and/or suppliers with other members in need.

AGS said it will be keeping a running list of members who have or need supplies.

“Our hearts are broken to see the hurt raging through our country and to now see many of our colleagues whose livelihoods have been affected by the unrest,” Carter said.

“Watching and listening to AGS members support, encourage, and offer to donate whatever resources they have to each other reminds me that there is so much good in this world,” Bodoh said in a statement to National Jeweler.

“The American Gem Society is seeking ways on an ongoing basis to help in any way possible as our nation and industry go through this awful time,” added Underwood Jewelers’ Michael Richards, newly elected AGS board president.

As jewelers look for guidance on how to protect themselves and their stores, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance shared a list of tips.

1. Monitor updates on the situation from local police and the news and remain closed if any type of disturbance is expected.

2. Keep showcases empty to avoid being a target and secure what you can in a safe or a vault.

3. Don’t cover up the showcases. Post a sign that states merchandise has been removed from the store.

4. Keep in touch with employees about the status of the store.

5. Remove important documents from the store and keep inventory records offsite or saved in the cloud so they’re available for insurance claims.

6. Do not physically protect your store; rely on insurance instead. Jewelers risk injury or death and could face charges if someone is injured.

7. Keep a list of companies that provide clean-up services, like glass repair and locksmiths.

8. If you have entry damage, consider hiring a security guard to secure the store.

9. If the police are unable to respond, preserve any evidence you find in separate paper bags with a note about where and when you found the item.

10. Take photos and videos to document damage to the store.

11. If the alarm goes off, do not respond alone. Request assistance from the police or a guard.

12. Board up doors and windows if you are in an area of severe risk.

13. If damage does occur, heed the advice of your insurance agent.

“It’s a very scary time for jewelers and this is not going to stop tonight. It may not stop soon,” JSA President John J. Kennedy said.

At 3 p.m. EST Tuesday, Kennedy will further discuss safety procedures in a webinar hosted by National Jeweler Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff.

Protests are expected to continue in the coming days with several major cities, including New York, enforcing curfews.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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