Seminole Heights businesses relying on holidays to bring in customers

Four unsolved murders impact area businesses

TAMPA - A neighborhood gripped by four unsolved murders is relying on people to show up to shop in area stores this weekend.

Today marks Small Business Saturday, better known in Seminole Heights as its Fifth Annual Holiday Shop Hop.

Neighborhood store owners are hoping fear won't keep customers away. More than 25 small businesses want you to bring your wallets to Seminole Heights.

The Seminole Heights neighborhood located in Tampa's urban core has been reeling since early October when the first of four people were fatally shot in separate, but what Tampa police say are related incidents. 

Local businesses say they have seen a drop off in business since then. Today they need customers to show up more than ever.

"It's our highest grossing day of the year," said Davin Hansen, owner of Urban Bungalow, referring to the Holiday Shop Hop.

Every customer is a welcome sight.

Hansen and Greg Curtis, owner of Cleanse Apothecary, said they are doing their best to help make customers feel safe when they shop in Seminole Heights.

They will walk customers to their cars.

Merchants supports the Tampa Police Department's efforts to step up security.

In addition to increased vehicle patrols, police officers on horseback also are present on Seminole Heights streets.

In weeks past the busy district looked more like a ghost town at sundown.

"It tells us that people are afraid to come," Curtis said

Curtis believes it has gotten so bad it could force businesses to shut down.

"Definitely if people aren't coming down to the neighborhood, it's affecting the businesses and their bottom line," Curtis said.

Hansen said some businesses may have to shut down. 

"We had Irma, and we had the shootings, so we have had a double wammy," Hansen said.

Zyad Asi is ready to shop.

"You can't live your life in fear, that's the most important thing," said Asi, a customer. "Just go out and live your life the way. You want to live your life."

The Holiday Shop Hop runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A community "After Party" with music, bogo ice cream, wine tastings and raffles will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30  p.m. at The Graham Building, 6701 Florida Ave.

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