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New downtown Akron shop takes the lead in taking down the plywood following Walker protests

Da'Shika Street and her husband Andre take down protective plywood covering her storefront.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Da'Shika Street (left) and her husband, Andre, take down the plywood that was protecting the window of her downtown Akron craft store, Street Craftery, on July 19, 2022. Street boarded up as a precaution during ongoing protests downtown over the police shooting of Jayland Walker, but her business was spared.

It’s been a little more than two weeks since Da’Shika Street first opened a colorful new do-it-yourself arts and craft studio called Street Craftery in downtown Akron.

But just a day after her July 1 opening, she had to close - a precautionary measure due to high tensions downtown over the death of Jayland Walker, who was fatally shot by Akron Police after a car and foot chase June 27.

Walker was wounded or grazed at least 46 times, according to the medical examiner’s report.

“During our ribbon cutting, which was June 30 … right in the middle of it, I had gotten news of the Walker situation in the city, and it was just heartbreaking,” Street said. “We weren’t sure what was going to take place, being in the heart of downtown, which is a really, really great thing, but we also know that this is the center of our justice system and everything. So, we decided to shut our doors that Saturday afternoon until further notice.”

Protests erupted downtown during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, particularly following the July 3 release of the bodycam footage of the shooting.

While most protesters were peaceful, some people smashed windows of businesses, among other property damage, police said. Police arrested 49 people for protest-related incidents that weekend and Mayor Dan Horrigan instated an overnight curfew for the downtown area.

Street’s business was not damaged, she said, but she boarded up just in case. Street, who is Black, hung a Black Lives Matter sign outside the store to show her support, and she wonders if that’s why her store was spared.

Regaining momentum
Today, she and her husband Andre decided to take the boards down and reopen.

“I feel like now is the time, because no matter what … in the face of tragedy, in the face of joy, people need spaces to gather,” Street said. “Expressing yourself through creativity is a healthy way of dealing with any challenge you could be facing in life.”

Da'Shika Street holds up Black Lives Matter sign
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Da'Shika Street holds up a Black Lives Matter sign she hung outside her business ahead of protests downtown over the death of Jayland Walker.

However, Street is concerned the tensions in the downtown area may have stinted the growth of her new business. People still seem to be hesitant to come shopping downtown, she said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a giant setback, because we had just opened, so everything we had in place is already still in place, but just the momentum – that’s the concerning part,” she said. “I really hope that there’s still momentum in the area of people interested in coming out again.”

To try to rebuild the buzz and get the word out about her shop, Street will be doing some pop-up events in the community, she said. She’s also posting on social media frequently for promotion, she added.

Craft projects at her store include painting, candle-making, splatter painting and cement-pouring, she said. She hopes eventually, people will be more willing to come downtown and find entertainment – and even self-care – through her crafts.

“I feel like it’s important to really have a space where people can come, and to know that this is a safe space. You are welcome here,” Street said. “Today marks day one of charging forward and just really looking out to a bright future.”

Street said she appears to be the first business owner to remove her window boards, and she is encouraging other businesses nearby to do the same. Most stores around Street Craftery were damaged during the protests, she added.

Some have reopened or are operating with limited hours, Street added.

Main and Exchange-
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Businesses remain boarded up in the aftermath of protests over the death of Jayland Walker. Some are visible here at the intersection of Exchange and Main St. in downtown Akron.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.