The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sent shockwaves through every facet of society. Not untouched from those effects are stores like Plantation Home in Lakewood.
After six months of being closed by the pandemic, the store will reopen Thursday as Avenue Home. Owner David Stein hopes the store’s new name will honor the cultural shift the country is experiencing.
“At this time, with all of the racial injustices going on, I felt like now was a good time to change it,” Stein said. “We’ve always been an open and welcoming store and we wanted to reflect that. If someone found the word ‘plantation’ offensive, the least that I could do was go through a changing of the name.”
Plantation Home, named after Stein’s love for Southern decor, has been a staple in Lakewood for 18 years. The Detroit Avenue store sells a variety of furniture, as well as pottery, brass decorations and home accessories. The store is known for its holiday decorations, including for several years putting holiday vignettes in the windows, bringing back memories of when downtown Cleveland stores were known for holiday window displays.
Last year, he began brainstorming ideas for renaming the store to better reflect the new blend of merchandise he sold. When Floyd died in May, Stein knew it was time to change it.
Stein’s linen and dinnerware store, Cotton, across from Avenue Home and in the historic Bailey Buick Building, will not change its name, he said.
After Floyd’s death, Stein recalled a few times he’s had to explain the store’s old name. Some residents even went to City Council and questioned why it would allow a business named after a plantation in the city.
“In no way did I want the name of the store to be synonymous with any type of racial injustice,” Stein said. “The last thing I wanted to do was offend anyone with the name.”
Public reaction to the store’s new name has been positive. Some, however, have criticized the change as pandering to the moment.
Besides the name, both of Stein’s stores will reopen with a few physical changes. This includes new store hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Stein also implemented plexiglass sneeze guards for the cash registers, and people can schedule personal shopping appointments by calling 216-227-4663.
Both Cotton and Avenue Home brought back two employees each. Normally, Avenue Home would have five employees and Cotton would have four. It’s unclear when every employee will return, but Stein said he will bring them back as soon as he can.
To make up for the lost time, Stein is offering a 45% discount on certain items for the month of September. Customers will also be able to purchase floor models, something the store normally doesn’t allow.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to stay open. There’s nothing saying that when we do reopen, we’ll get our customers back,” Stein said. Some of the biggest obstacles that his store is facing are issues with his supply chain and getting new product, he added.
Stein closed his store on March 17 because of the pandemic. To prepare, he made sure his five employees at Plantation Home and his four employees at Cotton applied for unemployment. He also had made sure his outstanding invoices had been paid and notified his suppliers of the temporary closures.
During the closure, Stein took an enormous financial hit, though he wouldn’t say how much. To stay afloat while his businesses were closed, Stein used the city’s rent relief program for businesses to make sure he wasn’t falling behind with rent payments.
Stein is looking toward the future of his store and what's next.
“It’s been challenging going through a name change and the pandemic. What I had to do as a business owner was accept the fact that 2020 would not be a record-setting year,” Stein said. “I can’t dwell on what’s happened. I have to look to the future. I am more concerned with the longevity of my business.”
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