Members of an Ontario community in Quinte West are rallying around 21-year-old Taylor Russett after his café became the victim of several acts of vandalism and arson.
The café — The Grind And Vine — has only been open for three weeks, but Russett says the Ontario Provincial Police are investigating after he suffered broken windows, fires, and homophobic graffiti.
This incident has put my business — in a sense — [in] an unsafe environment.
Russett told Narcity over a video call that the vandalism started with the destruction of plant pots outside his business on December 9 — less than two weeks after the café opened in downtown Trenton on November 26.
Next, fires were set inside the business's fire escape and the windows were smashed in.
Russett opted to take the problem online, posting his own security video of the two apparent vandals. The video blew up, and it's been viewed 35,000 times and shared nearly 1,000 times.
It was then that the vandalism became targeted, Russett says.
Russett, an openly gay man, says he found smashed windows and homophobic graffiti at his store on Thursday morning.
The graffiti also mocked Russett for going to the police, with "catch us if you can" written over and over again.
Russett says the OPP told him they were investigating the incident as a hate crime, while the OPP said they couldn't confirm or deny any specifics as it was an ongoing investigation.
The Quinte West community is rallying to help Russett, and he's started a GoFundMe to cover the costs of repairs, which come in at around $15,000, he says.
Russett says that community support is essential for any small business trying to make it through hardships — pandemic-related or not.
"I'm going through vandalism," he says. "But the way to power through it is to continue supporting local, continue supporting small businesses, and especially businesses of minorities as well."