This article was written by Connor Cummiskey
Minneapolis was shaken in late May after George Floyd died in Minneapolis Police custody. Protests soon followed, which were in turn followed by nights of looting and violence.
Dozens of businesses were burnt and many more damaged or burglarized. Now as local businesses are picking up the pieces a new organization is looking to help not only rebuild but support the Northside into the future.
The Upper Northside Business Association (UNBA) is a partnership between businesses, residents and Council Member Phillipe Cunningham. The association was recently founded and is dedicated to supporting local businesses in the Fourth Ward of Minneapolis, according to Founding Chair Anika Robbins.
One of the first projects the association has taken on is fundraising to help recover from the damage. So far the UNBA has raised over $40,000 on Go Fund Me under a project titled “Rebuild Businesses in Camden, Minneapolis.”
“We just wanted to, right away, rally around our businesses,” Robbins said.
Robbins said the organization is working to rebuild a community that would otherwise likely be overlooked.
“The plan is to look at the businesses that were impacted and distribute those funds proportionately,” Robbins said.
Plans are still in the works for exactly how the money will be distributed, because the fundraising is ongoing, she said.
While the association is working out how to provide assistance to local businesses, some of those business owners are trying to figure out what comes next.
Kester Wubben is the owner of Mailbox Solutions Plus, which was one of three businesses on 44th and Penn damaged or destroyed by a fire in the early morning hours of June 1. He is looking for a new location.
Wubben is hoping to stay close to where he was, in part because of the benefits of being close to Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center, he said. He also wants to stay in the area because the community has been good to him.
“They’re very, very supportive of me,” Wubben said. “With that show of loyalty, I would like to stay in this area if possible.”
As of June 16, Wubben was still uncertain if his insurance would cover the damages his business sustained. He wasn’t certain if he would be able to rebuild if the insurance doesn’t cover it, Wubben said.
Wubben also is looking for funds from the government, but as of June 16 was unaware of any resources for businesses in his situation.
Despite the hardships, Wubben still has plans for expanding on what he was doing. He would like to include a coffee shop, additional computer rentals and offices people can rent for business meetings.
Wubben said he’s had an outpouring of support from community members and other business owners.
“I don’t think I can say it enough – thank you to the community,” Wubben said.
As the fires and unrest drift into memory, the UNBA plans to be around to help business owners like Wubben through things like grant funding and technical support.
UNBA is working on plans for how to rebuild the upper Northside to create sustainable wealth, jobs and provide support so local businesses can thrive, Robbins said.
“Before the sky fell our goal, our vision, was to really think about what kind of neighborhood we wanted,” Robbins said. “We decided we wanted a neighborhood that was thriving, with bustling pockets of various kinds of businesses that had a lot of cultural sass.”
The organization envisions the Northside being more walkable, where residents will be able to do their shopping, eat out and find entertainment without having to go outside the area.
Along with the more visible brick and mortar stores, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who work from home. The association also plans to help highlight those businesses and connect them with each other, Robbins said.
Customers can contact Mailbox Solutions Plus at 612-217-1632 or donate at gofundme.com/f/mailbox-solutions-plus. Those interested in donating to the UNBA fundraiser can find it at gofundme.com/f/rebuild-businesses-in-camden-minneapolis.