Justice Collins stands in the middle of his damaged store after a driver crashed into the building Dec. 3. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

ENGLEWOOD — Justice Collins opened Culture Connection 360 to give local entrepreneurs a helping hand 12 years ago. Now, Collins needs a hand himself.

On Thursday, someone crashed a car into the shop at 400 W. 71st St., damaging the store and injuring one person. There were $25,000 in damages and it will take weeks for Collins to make repairs to Culture Connection 360, though supporters have created a GoFundMe to help.

“It’s a great place to come and support local businesses. There aren’t too many Black-owned businesses in Englewood, so it’s important for us to be here,” Collins said.

Collins, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, opened the shop 12 years ago. It sells everything from books by local authors to waist beads and jewelry crafted by neighborhood artists. Collins makes it a point to offer shelf space to entrepreneurs denied the opportunity by larger retailers.

Regular customers stop in weekly for health products and to check out the documentary section.

But on Thursday, someone drove a Ford into a parked car near the store, then crashed into the shop itself. One person who was inside the store was injured. The driver ran off and hasn’t been found, police said.

The victim’s injuries were not serious and the person was treated at the scene, Collins said.

Culture Connection 360, the day after a car careened into the storefront, causing over $25,000 of damage. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

But Culture Connection 360 saw extensive damage.

Display shelves once filled with items from local vendors have been replaced with cardboard and yellow caution tape.

“It’s about $25,000 worth of damage. The whole front part of the store is gone, and we lost a lot of product,” Collins said. “We’re doing what we can to keep it operational.”

Most of the customers that have come through since the crash have no idea what happened or that the store had been closed for a short time to clean up. Some thought it was a remodeling project, Collins said.

Still, the support means a lot, especially now, when the coronavirus pandemic has harmed so many businesses, Collins said. The fundraiser has raised $525 so far.

Collins’ family has had a business on the corner for more than 20 years, running a hardware store in the late 90s before converting it to a neighborhood general store.

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