WBEZ is chronicling Illinois’ road to recovery, bringing you stories of people as they move on from COVID-19 physically, emotionally and economically.
Four year ago, Jasmine Clayton and her husband Michael poured their life savings into a luxury nail salon in River North called Re’Luxe Nail & Spa Boutique. Clayton said business was booming.
“Before [COVID-19], Re’Luxe was the hottest nail salon in River North,” she said. “A lot of businesses in the neighborhood would frequent our salon. They'd bring their clients … because we offered something different.”
Then, COVID-19 forced Clayton to shut the business for two and a half months. They weren’t able to continue paying their employees that entire time and are missing vital household income. When Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced businesses like theirs could open June 3 with specific safety measures, Clayton started preparing. She reduced her staff to four technicians per shift and spaced stations apart.
“We were also going to space each appointment 15 minutes apart so after clients left we were kind of able to go back and sanitize the polish bottles, the tables, the pedicure stations,” Clayton said.
They stocked up on extra masks for workers and clients, thermometers to check client’s temperatures and tons of cleaning supplies.
Then, came the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck. On Saturday, like so many stores, her nail salon was hit by waves of looters. All of it was caught on their security cameras.
“We were able to see how the looters and/or protesters were smashing things, taking polish, taking safes, taking equipment, taking lights and just destroying the entire salon,” Clayton said.
Another group came into the salon thirty minutes later and took what was left.
“It was really hard to watch,” she said.
While many Chicago businesses are reopening Wednesday after being shuttered for more than two months due to COVID-19, others like Clayton’s are facing a more complicated road to recovery after three nights of unrest.
Clayton said she supports the protests seeking justice for Floyd, but does feel conflicted about it now that her livelihood has been destroyed due to escalating violence. She said she felt violated and devastated by the whole experience.
Now, she said it’s hard for her to tell the difference between protesters and looters. She wishes there had been more protection from the attacks for small businesses like hers, that don’t have the money to easily rebuild.
“I felt that this protest was for upliftment of the black community, for the upliftment of black people,” Clayton said. “I felt as though there should've been some sense of protection for us.”
Clayton and her husband spent 12 hours cleaning up the damage on Sunday with the help of clients and neighbors. They also received financial support online.
Clayton set up a fundraiser on Facebook that raised more than $12,000 in 24 hours. By Tuesday, they had raised closer to $14,000. But Clayton said they’re still so far away from reopening.
“Honestly, that’s just enough to pay the company that boarded up the windows and maybe replace a couple of things we lost, maybe some equipment,” she said. “But not nearly as much as we need to actually open our doors and operate, even with only five staff members working at a time.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Lightfoot announced partnerships with local chambers of commerce to help businesses affected by the unrest. She urged insurance agencies to move quickly to help damaged businesses.
Clayton is still figuring out what insurance will cover at her salon. It breaks her heart that Re’Luxe can’t open its doors for now.