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Point Richmond Businesses Fear Domino-Effect Following Starbucks Closure

RICHMOND (KPIX) -- Some of the neighbors who fought to keep a Starbucks from setting up shop in Point Richmond years ago are now fighting even harder to keep it from shutting down.

The coffee shop is located on Park Place and workers there told KPIX it's closing next Sunday, Nov. 29. They said business has been slow.

Next door, Brezo restaurant will be shutting down on the same day.

"It's been really slow," said Heather Mervine, who co-owns Brezo with her husband Hector Hernandez. "We're probably down to like 25 percent of what we used to do."

They said the small-business district has seen a big drop in foot traffic. Pre-pandemic, they say, Point Richmond was a vibrant and lively neighborhood.

"On Sundays, we were (serving food to) a few hundred people. So it was, like, packed pretty much in and out all day," said Mervine.

They hope to reopen in the future. But right now, they don't make enough to pay the bills.

"It's kind of like a ghost town cause a lot of the businesses have left. People aren't around. It's really empty," Mervine said.

"There's a lot of fear and anxiety," said Jonea Schillaci, owner of Wooly's hair salon.

The salon is in a building next to the Starbucks and, she says, the health of all businesses in Point Richmond is interconnected.

"Once businesses start closing down, it's like a domino effect -- we rely on each other," said Schillaci.

"If you have one restaurant out by itself, it doesn't do too well but, if you have three, they all do well," said Richmond mayor Tom Butt.

Mayor Butt owns an architectural engineering firm a few doors down from the Starbucks. He says the city offers help and money for individuals facing hardships but there are no city grants available for businesses affected by the pandemic.

He and neighbors are hoping to convince Starbucks to stay open since its lease doesn't expire until 2022.

"One of the individuals who fought the hardest to keep Starbucks out is now fighting to keep them here," Mayor Butt said.

Business owners said they've already lost some small offices and the Hotel Mac restaurant recently. They said any more closures will further hurt the district's character and its workers.

"I got laid off and then eventually they hired me back to work so I was happy about that," said Gilberto Contreras, who works at Extreme Pizza.

The business owners said they know all small businesses are hurting. That's why they're reminding people to support and shop local this holiday season.

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