We have some very unfortunate news to share with you today. If you recall, less than a month ago, we posted a story about a small business here in Church Hill that was robbed at gunpoint (you can read that story here).
We got a call that this same business was robbed AGAIN Wednesday night (July 25th) around 8p. The business, no longer wanting to remain anonymous, is Seven Hills Studio on 25th and Clay. Luckily, no one was hurt but this is something that is inexcusable.
Elizabeth Nall, owner-operator of Seven Hills Studio, is a long time Church Hill resident having grown up in this same neighborhood. This situation has been very challenging for her and her staff. Not feeling like you’re safe in your own space. Feeling violated.
This story began a little earlier in the day and maybe that will help set the stage.
This starts at Gather, owned by Melissa Micou, which as most of you know is a beautiful little plant shop that sits on Marshall St here in the Church Hill neighborhood in Richmond, VA (soon moving to a new space). Melissa was in Gather and the front door was unlocked but she wasn’t actually open. She was inside prepping the store to move to her new location.
It was over 90 degrees that day and a customer walked in wearing a printed black Sweatshirt/hoodie. Hood was up and drawn tight around his face hiding most features. Melissa told the customer they were closed and was immediately set on edge and felt unsafe. Not just by someone wearing a hoodie with the hood drawn tight in 90-degree weather but also because the customer wouldn’t look at her and kept shuffling around like he was nervous. The man in question mumbled that he had a question and started to reach into the pocket of his hoodie. Luckily, the wind just happened to blow open the door at that moment. The man, caught off guard, turned around to shut the door and Melissa quickly took this opportunity to go around the counter and step outside. She told the man that he could ask his question outside. Her neighbor also happened to be outside at that time and he noticed Melissa seemed upset so walked over. When the customer made eye contact with the neighbor he quickly left the store and briskly walked down the street without another word.
Melissa was a little shaken and was confident that she had just avoided being robbed. Thank God for that gust of wind and instincts. Melissa also had the forethought that if it was an attempted robbery the man failed and would probably be going somewhere else soon. Melissa did everything she could to notify the neighborhood. 911. Contacting local businesses. Instagram. Contacting us here at CHPN. The really unfortunate thing is that the 911 operator would not take a description over the phone. The 911 operator also said they couldn’t do anything unless Melissa stayed at the store to meet an officer which she couldn’t at that moment because she had to pick up her kids from school. Melissa then made another call to an RPD contact and was notified the officer had retired and the message she left for the new officer who took over was never returned.
Why is this story so important? Because, just a few hours later, that same man went into Seven Hills Studio and robbed them. Melissa was able to watch the surveillance video you can see part of here and verify it was the same man in the exact same clothes.
First, if you recognize this man or have any information regarding this incident please call crime stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
We had a chance to sit down with Elizabeth Nall, owner-operator of Seven Hills Studio. This incident happened when they were closing right at 8p. Elizabeth had just left the studio an hour earlier. In the shop was a front desk person but there was also a client and stylist in the back. Seven Hills STudio actually keeps the front door locked since the last time/first time they were robbed not even a month ago. However, the front desk person had unlocked the door because the client was leaving momentarily and that was when the assailant entered, threatened the front desk person, and stole the cash on hand.
When asked about her staff Elizabeth said they’re “Tough. Awesome. Resilient. At this point irritated. The things we’ve had to traverse have brought us closer together. It’s a very positive work environment and we draw on each other’s strengths”.
I want to put this in perspective. This is a single individual that has robbed this location twice. As a community, we have to demand action by the police. We want to grow this neighborhood and make it a place for all to enjoy but part of that is stopping the small handful of people that want to ruin that for everyone. There can be no tolerance for this type of potentially violent crime.
When you attend a 7th district meeting and the heads of RPD tell you to report suspicious activity that is well and good but they need to ACT on those reports (and coordinate/instruct 911 operators to pass along info as necessary). Especially one as serious as this when Gather was potentially robbed just hours earlier and the owner of that store tried to notify the police but no action was taken.
With that in mind, what can we do as a community? I have heard suggestions of a phone tree to keep business owners in the loop. There are always mentions of a neighborhood watch. Ultimately, I think all are viable ideas it just needs someone to take the lead and coordinate it.
Please share your idea/thoughts in the comments AND make sure and get an appointment at Seven Hills Studio (804) 344-0620). They’re an awesome bunch in a beautiful space.
I have to trust the community to hold us up. To actually support us through this and have it be more of a reason to come here and to say, yes, we understand, we live here too. It’s not just on us to fight against this. – Elizabeth Nall
We will not let crimes like this slide, we will not let it define us as a community, and we will NOT let a few people intimidate us in our own neighborhood from living our lives or patronizing our great local businesses.