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'I felt like I'd robbed my own store': A Philly jeweler describes a race to save her shop from looting

Frank Fitzpatrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA -- Amid the damage and disillusionment left behind after Saturday night's disturbances, Angela Monaco discovered one tiny irony in the rubble of her Philadelphia jewelry boutique:

Some of the objects the looters used to smash the Ritual Shoppe's display cases were healing crystals.

"I have a picture of all those broken crystals," Monaco said. "It's so symbolic."

For Monaco, like many devastated retailers in the wake of the widespread looting that whirled like a tornado through downtown Philadelphia this past weekend, the hours since have been marked by sleeplessness, confusion, uncertainty.

She's still waiting for the fearful adrenaline rush to subside, for the damage to be assessed, for that moment when decisions have to be made. She's been torn by her dismay over the fate of the business she's built and by the kinship she feels for those whose grievances sparked the looting and fires.

"I understand the anger and frustration, I really do," she said. "I understand protesting. I even understand some sort of rioting. But being a small-business owner that's already been through so much with the pandemic and now this ... I don't know. Obviously, I want everyone to be treated fairly and that hasn't been happening in the world. But it's so scary and so sad what happened to our city, to other cities, to this country."

 

The looted shop in the Rittenhouse Square area was the third iteration of the business Monaco, a 35-year-old art school-trained jewelry designer, started a decade ago on Third Street in Northern Liberties. After a few years, she rebranded as the Ritual Shoppe and moved to a larger, nearby location on Second Street.

In 2018, when the landlord decided to sell, she faced a choice: Buy the building or sign a five-year lease. Instead, she moved when the storefront at 2003 Walnut St. -- 1,100 square feet if you include the basement -- became available.

"It wasn't a neighborhood that ever felt attainable to me," she said. "I always thought, 'My God, I can't afford to be in Rittenhouse.' But it was affordable for us so we moved in. And it's been great there."

The eclectic shop sold jewelry handcrafted by its owner and other local designers. There were ceramics and beauty items from Philadelphia artisans, healing and wellness objects, candles, tarot cards. She staged workshops there, classes, art shows.

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