Baltimore Companies Open Amid Riots

"We're All Keeping An Eye Open Here"

Baltimore RiotsIndustry companies based in Baltimore are reporting business as usual, but remain on alert as riots and protests have gripped the city over the last few days. “We’re all keeping an eye open here, we’re all listening to the news,” says Bob Stine, vice president at Maryland Match Corporation (asi/263461), a manufacturer of branded matchboxes and other items. “We’re making sure that something doesn’t happen here that we need to get out quickly for.”

The supplier is located less than a mile from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where protestors gathered last weekend in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died on Sunday, April 19, from injuries suffered while in police custody. As riots sprung up on Monday, Stine says the company shut down an hour early due to traffic and safety concerns. “We weren’t sure what was happening the first day, Monday,” he says.

Avalon Promotional Products, a distributor based half a mile from the stadium, hasn’t been disrupted much save for the plight of one employee who lives near the site of Monday night’s fires. “She’s had respiratory problems and [the fires] have made it worse,” said an executive with the company, “plus she can’t get medicine because they burnt down her pharmacy.”

Murray Siegel, marketing director of Towel Specialties (asi/91605), says that a lot of clients have called from across the country out of concern for the wellbeing and safety of the company’s employees. “The main thing that’s affected our business is with the curfew,” says Siegel, referencing the seven-day city-wide curfew that was first placed Tuesday night. “We just have to make sure employees who use public transportation leave early enough so they’re home by 10.”

Carol Donovan, owner of Low Pro Graphics (asi/256359), can’t remember a time like this in the city since she was a child during the riots of 1968. Her apparel decoration business and work-wear retail storefront is located in Parkville, a block and a half outside the city limits. “We had a little bit of concern [Tuesday] because a couple neighborhoods down the street, a jewelry store got robbed and a CVS got broken into,” she says. “We have a large storefront, and my son called and said, ‘Are they heading up your way?’ We’ve got some pretty big windows they might be interested in. But we haven’t had any direct impact.”

While industry businesses aren’t suffering, the city of Baltimore is feeling the economic impact of the riots. Both the American Heart Association and the Door Hardware Institute cancelled conferences and conventions in the city this week, citing the safety of its attendees. The Baltimore Orioles played a home game in an empty stadium, losing an estimated $1 million. Property damage will affect stores and the curfew will negatively impact bars and restaurants.

Tensions continued to simmer in Baltimore on Tuesday and last night, but incidents were far fewer than Monday’s looting and fire-starting. Yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said the city was reaching “a turning point” but added there was still lingering hostility. A national rally is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Baltimore’s city hall.