ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It looked more like a storefront girding for a hurricane, its windows and doors covered over in particle board spray-painted with defiant sayings aimed at the impending, unstoppable forces of destruction.
Except no hurricane was coming.
Much of the glass behind the particle boards was already shattered.
And the spray-painted sayings were not words of defiance, but words of despair and angry resignation over the destruction that had left little to protect.
“You Stole It All,” read a saying across one window of the Anchor and Frame hair salon at Central and Bryn Mawr SE.
“It’s All Gone,” read another.
Like other small shops, restaurants and bars deemed “nonessential,” the Nob Hill salon was shuttered March 23 by order of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of the fight to limit the spread of COVID-19.
That was hard enough on business, said Gerhardt Ackerman, stylist and owner of Anchor and Frame.
What came next was worse.
“With restaurants and bars closed, the junkies have free rein on the Central area after 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.,” he said. “There is zero foot traffic or even car traffic.”
Dormant businesses became easy targets for vandalism and burglaries, and on April 1 thieves took advantage of that.
On April 6, they took everything else.
“The first one resulted in a bunch of retail product getting stolen, not to mention quite a few other items and, of course, damage,” Ackerman said. “The second time, they broke the other glass door and stole a ton of color, and some hair-cutting tools and some stupid stuff, and caused more costly damage.”
With no business and no end of the shutdown in sight, Ackerman said he isn’t sure when – or if – he will ever reopen the store.
“I can’t really afford to put money back into my salon considering how unknown this all is,” he said.
Commercial burglaries like the one at Anchor and Frame have been on the rise, apparently because of the mandated shutdowns related to coronavirus, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.
“Conversely, residential burglaries are down, most likely due to most people being at home,” Gallegos said.
APD has been tracking these crime trends through its Real Time Crime Center and shifting its resources to address those trends. As a result, detectives from APD’s Impact Team and Street Crimes Unit are being shifted over to focus on commercial burglaries as a priority, he said.
“We recognize businesses are vulnerable, and we want to do everything possible to protect them,” Gallegos said.
That comes too late for Anchor and Frame, but Gallegos said surveillance video was recovered from the second burglary and the case remains under investigation.
It’s a bitter blow to a retailer who for years dreamed of owning his own salon in Nob Hill, a neighborhood he loves.
“Nob Hill is a wonderful community and once the only pedestrian neighborhood in Albuquerque,” Ackerman said. “This is a small-business area, no chains. We are all fighting to support our families and keep our dreams alive.”
Gerhardt Ackerman worked for nearly 30 years in the salon business, finally striking out on his own with a small salon, also named Anchor and Frame, a block south on Silver SE. When the Ryde Shack on Bryn Mawr SE went out of business and that building became available, he moved his salon there, refurbishing the airy location with sleek wood floors and stark white walls. He opened for business in the fall of 2016.
“I’m inspired by design, nature and the beauty that come from all the fantastic people in my life,” Ackerman wrote about his salon. “A new direction, a rebirth, going back to ‘me’ for the art, the craft of hairstyling, which is my art, passion and a gift in my life. My anchor.”
And now it’s his heartbreak.
Ackerman said he has insurance, though the deductible is steep. Government aid will help, but he said he’d rather not have to ask for that.
And there’s the matter of his employees – three stylists, according to his website – and the inability to bring in revenue or do what he loves.
Or do much of anything.
Small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 emergency orders. Some, including state Republican leaders, argue that small businesses have been unfairly burdened, forced to close while grocery stores and big-box stores remain open under social distancing measures. Others argue that health and safety must be the overriding concern.
The balance between saving livelihoods and saving lives is a complicated and consequential one to make.
Ackerman, in an email, said he was grateful for the shutdown.
But what the burglars did was cruel. In this time of coronavirus, when the best and the worst of humanity have risen to the surface, this is among the worst.
For now, Anchor and Frame will remain boarded up to protect what is left from further break-ins and vandalism, and the seemingly unstoppable forces of the worst of us.
But this week, new spray-painted sayings appeared on the east side of the boarded-up salon. They are messages of kindness and care, and an optimism even the worst of us cannot destroy.
“We love you Nob Hill,” one message read, the word “love” symbolized by a large heart. “Stay safe and healthy.”
Outside, a lilac bush bloomed, deep purple and sweet, and a reminder that spring always returns, no matter the storms.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.