A&I Variety Meats and Produce

Food was left scattered on the floor after two recent break-ins at A&I Variety Meats and Produce, a Black-owned grocery store on the east side. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

A&I Variety Meats and Produce, a Black-owned grocery store on the east side, was broken into twice Jan. 12 and 13.

Owner Robert Hearst shared the news on Facebook with pictures of shattered glass in one of the store’s windows and the door.

The window was busted out in the Jan. 12 incident and boarded up later that day. The board was pushed out in the Jan. 13 incident, which is when the store was trashed. 

Hearst reported both incidents to police.

There was blood on the floor by where the window was broken in the Jan. 12 incident, and there was a footprint on the door from where Hearst guessed someone tried unsuccessfully to kick through the glass.

In an interview, Hearst estimated there is about $25,000 to $30,000 in damage between the two incidents, mostly due to two broken freezers. Shelves were flipped over, and food was scattered across the floor.

A&I Variety Meats and Produce break-in

One window was busted out by a rock during the Jan. 12 break-in, and the glass door was shattered. Blood was found on the floor. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

Hearst also found his office was torn apart with coffee splashed around.

Hearst doesn’t keep cash in the register but said it was open when he found it.

In a Facebook Live video Jan. 12, Hearst showed viewers the damage to the building and said he’s starting to understand why people don’t want to help in that area around 38th Street and Post Road — “because they tear everything up that people try to do.”

In the interview, though, Hearst said that was just a heat-of-the-moment reaction, and he thinks whoever was responsible probably came from another part of town.

“After things calmed down, I sat back and I thought about it,” he said. “I’m like, this isn’t anybody from this community that did this. Everybody in this community knows who I am and what A&I stands for.”

There will be a fundraiser noon-5 p.m. Jan. 18 at the grocery story, 8939 E. 38th St.

John Schmitz, a mason contractor and builder who also ran for mayor in 2019, saw the news on Facebook and had wood in his shop to board up the window. He said he’s been helping Hearst since the store opened.

“It just made my heart sink a little bit that he was going through that,” Schmitz said. “It’s such a struggle to get a business going anyway. Then when you have extra problems, it just takes the wind out of your sails”

This isn’t the first time Hearst has experienced something like this at A&I, which has been open for just over a year now.

Shortly after A&I opened in January 2019, Hearst showed up one morning to find two windows busted out by rocks. He guessed it was just some kids who didn’t realize the building wasn’t abandoned anymore, but damages totaled about $1,200.

A fundraiser helped raise all but about $300 to repair the windows.

The cost of repairs this time is much steeper, but Hearst said any amount will still be helpful. He also said many people have volunteered to help clean up the store.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

FUNDRAISER FOR A&I VARIETY MEATS AND PRODUCE

A&I Variety Meats and Produce, a Black-owned grocery store, experienced a break-in, and a fundraiser will help offset the cost of damages.

When: noon-5 p.m. Jan. 18

Where: A&I Variety Meats and Produce, 8939 E. 38th St.

A previous version of this story did not make it clear there were two break-ins, one on Jan. 12 and another on Jan. 13. That information was not shared with the Recorder before publishing.

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