CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn – A neighborhood mom-and-pop hardware store is in danger of closing, but the community is rallying around the store’s owner to save the business.
American Star Hardware has been a fixture on St. John’s Place for decades. Now the clock is ticking down. Owner Mohammed Kamara, who has owned the store for 20 years, has until Feb.13 to come up with $23,400.
Neighbors have started a GoFundMe page to help him raise the funds. They’ve still got a long way to go.
“I do not have any computer experience," Kamara said. "The neighbors here, they’ve been coming to the store and I explain my problem to them and then they decided to really, really help me."
Organizers of the fundraising page write:
“Mohammed Kamara is a cherished member of this local community and he is the father of six children. Even if you do not know him directly, his plight is that of every small business owner being displaced in a rapidly gentrified city. If we stand in solidarity in cases like this we can help decide the future of our neighborhoods and keep our communities together. When unjust displacement happens it affects the security of the whole neighborhood and breaks up longstanding relationships in a community that go beyond quick profit.”
Alexander Chaparro, one of the neighbors who put together the GoFundMe effort, decided to help because of his experience with the business.
“I know Mr. Kamara, coming into this business he’s always been an incredibly friendly, gracious person to anyone who comes in," Chapparo said. "The environment in this store is like a small business community where people know each other and human direct contact with the person running the store."
In a world with big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, this neighborhood hardware store is struggling to survive. The owner of the building is deceased and the executor wants to sell the property. Kamara found an investor to help him purchase it, but he didn’t anticipate - $23,400 extra in tax fines and penalties.
The executor wants that paid upfront. If not, Kamara loses the sale and gets evicted. They have a week left to raise the money. The neighbors pitching in has touched Kamara deeply.
“I was very shocked to see the warmth, the kindness and the caring of neighborhood. It makes me feel wonderful, great,” Kamara said.
Part of this fight is about gentrification.
“Everyone in New York is facing being pushed out and outbidded by the highest bidder," Chaparro said. "Mr. Kamara's business is more important to us to keep - someone who has roots in this neighborhood, serves the community working seven days a week and provide a great service."
It’s more than just saving a business. Kamara, a married father of six, wants to continuing supporting his family and serving his community.
“All my children grew up in the store here. My hope and dream is to own this property and continue serving the neighborhood,” Kamara said.
The court has to receive the funds by his next court date, Feb. 13.