Hi Frères Branchiaux family!
Sorry for the late inbox message. I was struggling whether or not to even send a message today...it's late and I am exhausted but I want to be consistent with this newsletter.
As most you know, we moved into a warehouse in July. What you do not know is that we have been the subject of constant observation since we moved in.
Here are few background details:
- There are about 20-25 businesses in the business park
- Our landlord has owned his unit since the late 1980s.
- We are one of 3 black tenants. The FIRST ones that our landlord has ever had--in 2020.
On the first day that we moved in, an older white gentleman--who we soon found out to be one of long term owners--asked us:
- What are we doing here?
- Did we go before the board (later found out that he meant condo board for business park)
- Then he told us that "churches and auto body shops" are not allowed.
He didn't greet us. He didn't even say hello. Just started off with assumptions and accusations.
Within the last 6 weeks, he has repeatedly left complaints to our landlord such as:
- We seem as though we are sleeping at the building overnight. We get there before most of the businesses open and leave late at night after most have closed.
- On Monday, 8/31, he reported to our landlord that the boys were running around the parking lot and jumping on trucks on Saturday, 8/29.
- It was Collin's birthday. We never went to the warehouse on 8/29. My husband and I worked from home on that day.
- He sent the Code Compliance inspectors to the business--during a pandemic
We had an impromptu Code compliance inspection about a week after we moved in. Our landlord, who has owned the unit for almost 30 years, said there HAS NEVER been an impromptu inspection. The man called him and let him know that inspectors were stopping by--AFTER they had left.
Y'all--this is just too much. We moved to the warehouse for expansion--but this man is determined to push us out. We don't do anything but work in the warehouse all day.
Code compliance actually shut us down this week because they were missing info from our landlord--who supplied the info over 10 years ago. Our landlord and real estate had to persuade the code compliant inspector to just let us back in for the weekend.
I am hyper vigilant about the boys when they walk to the garbage receptacle and generally shush them when they are in the parking lot--y'all I am fussing at my kids--for them to stop being kids--so that the confrontational man would not have any reason to call our landlord.
This man also constantly files complaints and has even called the police on the other 2 black businesses in the complex--and complains about the black manager of one the businesses.
It is nerve-wracking to have to constantly watch our every move, laugh, volume of voice, and tone of voice. Like really heavy to deal with. We have to be on our guard at all times at the warehouse. The boys worked from home today and I went to the warehouse by myself. Like clockwork, the man's truck pulled up into the mostly empty parking lot---no matter if it is on the weekday or weekend--this man is watching us or checking on our business behavior.
I have been through a lot yall--
- a challenging childhood with my father as a drug addict until my late teens
- Putting myself through college and grad with scholarships and loans
- Mom dying of breast cancer 9 years ago--I was with her with three bouts of cancer and held her hand as she took her last breath
- Being raped during my sophomore year of college
*none of this info is public. I have spoken and written about all of my experiences extensively.
But--I have never felt this level of harassment. It is pervasive and intended to force the victim to leave a situation/environment. It is already difficult as it is to catch up on processing orders--but this man is making our business life unbearable with the weight of racial harassment and bias.
I am now always anticipating a complaint or a confrontation. It has taken a toll on our entire family. What is supposed to be a means of expansion has turned into a perilous situation.
I am beyond tired of being asked if we have the right to be in warehouse, the right to be children--the right to just be.
I am most worried about the man accusing Collin of doing something--any single thing--that would bring the police out. Collin looks older than 15--he is now 6"1' and 180 lbs--he can be mistaken for an adult and....I don't even want to think about it.
No one should have to go through this. As a result, we are spending much of our energy trying not to be noticed. We are actively trying to be invisible.
THIS IS NOT RIGHT. NOT RIGHT AT ALL!
I don't have a solution--but I fear that we will end up being pushed out of the warehouse due to constant harassment and lies.
That is the cost of having a business while black--in 2020. It's way too much right now.
OUR CUSTOMER SERVICE
Customer service is not our forté. Our last customer service agent actually stopped taking calls and answering emails last week--no reason given.
I don't have the time to manage and process orders while answering customer service. I commend those who do it as a profession--I am not very good at it--and we keep trying to hire out. And I don the social media--but I rarely have time to respond to comments and direct messages. Not ignoring you--but trying to find someone who can respond in real time and actually be consistent. If you have sent me your resume, I have forwarded your info to our new HR consultant. I already know that some of you may respond positively to this email while other may respond negatively--it comes with the territory.
We will get better and get through this. I heard earlier today that "credibility and trust are paramount in times of crisis."
We have let that trust and credibility down--during a pandemic--and we understand your frustration with the lack of responses and delayed shipping. We get it--and are working to hire out to improve our customer experience.
Also, if you would rather not receive newsletter or updates, you can always unsubscribe. You will always get direct communication regarding your order via email--but you do not have to receive weekly emails from us.
PS: Thank you to everyone who is still rooting for this business to grow. In my former career, I was a special education teacher--learning about how to grow a business and manage growth is a truly newer concept to me--and I know that I will get better--and even be able to hire someone who can assume my role eventually--as long as I am doing my best to do my best.
Stay safe and take care of yourselves,
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