Sunday, May 27, 2018

After Trayvon Martin killing, Sanford has to deal with fears

SANFORD — Customers are canceling reservations at Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe. Women are postponing trims at Exclusive Cuts. The aisles at Maya Books & Music are empty.

Sanford, which for a decade has been working to be known for its artsy downtown, historic district and waterfront promenade, now is synonymous with the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.

Today, the Rev. Al Sharpton plans to call for economic sanctions at a massive rally in Sanford designed to push law officers into arresting Zimmerman.

Sharpton wouldn't elaborate Friday, but Willow Tree owner Theo Hollerbach said he has seen online campaigns for a boycott. He already has had to cut his servers' hours as sales plunged $10,000 in a week, he said.

"This punishes good people who work hard," Hollerbach said.

"That's (economic sanctions) sad, because it's actually distracting from the real issue, which is justice," said Yvette Comeau, owner of Maya Books & Music. "No business owner had anything to do with what happened. We're all as stunned as everyone else."

All through downtown Sanford, business owners are bracing for more marches, negative publicity and a possible boycott. Many said business has slowed to a trickle since the Feb. 26 shooting.

Though popular restaurants such as Willow Tree Cafe and Christo's still have customers, many people say there's an undercurrent of fear permeating Sanford that is keeping people at arm's length. Even service businesses such as shipping and insurance have taken a hit.

Steven Lucas said his wife's Auto Insurance World store on French Avenue outside downtown has seen business plummet 75 percent to 80 percent in the past two weeks. Customers aren't coming in to make payments or asking for new policies.

"People in Sanford are afraid," said Lucas, who owns dozens of insurance franchises in Florida. "It feels like something is about to happen, and they're holding onto their money."

"People are hesitant to come to Sanford," said Lisa Reiner, a hairdresser at Exclusive Cuts downtown. "They don't feel quite secure yet."

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