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GoFundMe Reflections & Summary

On July 21, 2023 at 9 PM, a car crashed through our storefront at 406 S. Driver. Gratefully, there was no one present in the shop at the time of collision. It is my understanding that this accident happened as a result of a pursuit that began elsewhere and terminated in East Durham. Having been en-route to the store around the time of the accident, I arrived about a minute after the alarm went off. I pulled up to the intersection of Driver and Angier and immediately jumped out of the car. As soon as I stepped out of the vehicle, three rounds of gunshots were fired in, what I assumed was, my direction. I jumped back in the car and got down the block before walking back to the shop. I was told, by the police officers on the scene, that the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot. There was a passenger; however, they were not in the vehicle when I arrived. I stayed at the bookstore until about 4 AM when Mr. Kearney put up the last of the plastic, our attempt to close up the store. I am grateful to him. I am grateful to Michael and Gloria De Los Santos, the team at Mike D’s, and Tony Cates who kept watch over me and the store that night.

Rofhiwa had been open for two years at that point - funded entirely by community, sweat equity, and my mother who is the principal monetary investor at the bookstore (thanks mum!). Like many small - and specifically Black-owned - businesses in years 0-5, we had, and have, no significant savings; we had not paid ourselves in the life of the business; and later, I would learn, that while the combination of our’s and our landlord’s insurance policies would cover all of the structural repairs and damages to furnishings and inventory (commercial property insurance), we did not have loss of income/revenue insurance or business interruption insurance which covers lost net income during repairs. I just didn’t know about it and that was a big lesson for us.

In the days following the accident, our neighbors put together a GoFundMe for the store. Our community in Durham, the greater United States, in South Africa, and beyond raised $39050 in support of our effort to re-open. Our immediate needs were rent - we did not receive abatement - and payroll. We needed to be able to meet the terms of our lease while repairs were underway and transition our employees to remote/off-site work. We also needed to prioritize utilities and payments to our publishers with whom we have a range of 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 day terms. All of these would be due in the coming weeks. To summarize, we apportioned the money for rent, payroll and associated expenses, publisher expenses, and essential utilities. As far as I could see it, we were going to be out for about 3 months and that’s what we budgeted for, loosely. Transparently, Rofhiwa’s current operating budget is about $20K. After fees, the donations we received could reasonably get us through a little over a month-and-a-half of operations. We figured we could make up the difference in online sales and by turning Congress into a makeshift coffee/breakfast spot, etc.

For some reason or other - delays in construction, delays in equipment - we just couldn’t stand Congress up fast enough to serve. We were also a bit over-zealous in our projections for online sales, admittedly. Revenues from our online sales channels over the next few months were not nearly enough to off-set the loss of our brick and mortar. By September, we were hurting pretty badly. On September 18, 2023, I submitted a notice to terminate to our landlord and tapped out. October 5, 2023, he sent me his usual “friendly rent reminder”. I called to ask why he hadn’t acknowledged my notice to terminate. If you ask him, he’ll say he never received it :)

Over the next week, I spoke to a few neighbors, supporters, and - halfheartedly floated the idea that we might re-open. With their help and encouragement as well as that of our landlord, and team, we were able to get this place cleaned up enough to stand-up the coffee-shop side of Rofhiwa on October 13, 2023. It was clumsy and rickety, but we did it. Over the next few weeks, we had to close a couple more times for additional repairs and, off course, the power outage that forced all businesses in the corridor to close for two or three days.

We are proud of where we find ourselves today. We have brought back most of our selection, expanded our beverage offerings, and have more than doubled our seating capacity. Our “Request A Book” feature is back and we are working hard to clear the backlog of orders by the end of the month. Getting this thing back has been a maze and a rollercoaster but we couldn’t have done it without you. Below, please find a breakdown of how your donations have been used during this time. May your ancestors bless you; where they lead may you follow, dutifully, behind them. May they open all your paths and leave no obstacle ahead of you. Rofhiwa.

Donations Received $39,050.00
     GoFundMe Fees -$5,404.91
Total Received $33,774.70
Expenses - July 21 - October 30
Rent (3.5 months) $8,050.00
Loan Repayment (originated in 2021) $1,258.50
Publishers/ Books $9,710.82
Payroll & Payroll Expenses $13,534.98
Duke Energy $784.55
PSNC $66.00
Total Expenses $33,404.85

 

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