By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lake Street’s small businesses are leaning on each other one year after the damage and disruption caused by looting in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

During the worst of it, Mauro Madrigal manned his La Mexicana Grocery. His wife, Maria Gutierrez, nearly couldn’t take it, suffering anxiety and panic attacks.

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“I called the ambulance because [my body was shaking] and I’m scared,” Gutierrez said.

The couple says they hired armed men at the time to watch over their property from the roof. Madrigal says Lake Street, and his business, aren’t yet back to normal.

“Everything’s still going on,” he said. “All the shooting, still prostitution out there, drug dealing. Customers are afraid to come by.”

Hope for Gutierrez and Madrigal comes from the Lake Street Latino Business Association, a group they helped start last summer that’s grown to about 150 businesses. They meet regularly to offer support and press city leaders for help. Madrigal says they’re looking into hiring off-duty police as security.

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La Mexicana Grocery on Lake Street (credit: CBS)

Also working to revitalize the area is the Lake Street Greenway Partnership, made up of a coalition of government and grassroots groups, as well as corporations.

Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents a large portion of Lake Street, says the rebuild plan is centered on immigrant community priorities, like racial equity.

“Their cultural identity, their language, their traditions, their ceremonies,” Cano said. “What makes Lake Street so unique is that racial diversity and that cultural contribution, so they want to drive development by promoting projects that develop that presence.”

The Latino Economic Development Center is also playing a significant role. The nonprofit has helped secure millions of dollars in resources for businesses at no charge, according to executive director Henry Jimenez.

“The last 18 months or so, we’ve been really focusing on keeping businesses solvent,” Jimenez said.

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He says with many stores and restaurants struggling, the best way to help is to come and eat and shop.

David Schuman