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‘It took us years to build our business'

SMASHED: Mark Hamilton with city centre retail chaplain Elaine Hutchinson outside his Stephenson Street shop

“IT WAS like a hate crime” – this was how trader Mark Hamilton described what it felt like to see one of his shops smashed up and raided by a mob of thugs two nights in a row during rioting in Birmingham.

The 24-year-old businessman, who runs two branches of Hatman, a hat, clothing and accessories store with his father Dennis in the city centre, said he was heartbroken, but it was business as usual.

Mark said their shop in Corporation Street had suffered around £80,000 to £100,000 in damages and looted stock, while their other store in Stephenson Street remained untouched.

“The worst thing was watching the footage afterwards – you could see them laughing and smiling while the police stood by and did nothing. It was like a hate crime,” said Mark, who has built up the Hatman brand, which is now distributed all over the UK including Tottenham and Manchester.

“Within minutes the damage to the shop was filmed and on Youtube, Twitter and Blackberry messaging. But the question everyone is asking is ‘will it happen again? Is this the end of it?”

Mark said he welcomed the raft of measures announced by the Prime Minister to support businesses affected by the rioting and would look into what he might be able to benefit from.

SAD: Mark Hamilton outside his Corporation Street shop which was attacked two nights in a row

Thugs smashed in the door of his Corporation Street shop within two hours of him leaving on Monday night. They took thousands of pounds worth of clothing and electrical goods.

“We boarded up the door and then the following night they returned and smashed up the whole of the front of the shop and took loads more stock,” added Mark who is now in the process of rebuilding his business. “The whole thing is beyond belief. These youths don’t want to work – and even if they do they want £50,000 straight away. No-one is prepared to work their way up.

“I started at 16 with my dad buying and selling on market stalls. It’s taken us years to build up this business to what it is now.”

Mark, like other traders, has received pastoral support from city centre retail chaplain Elaine Hutchinson, who is based at the United Reform Church in Carrs Lane.

She said: “I am here as a listening presence to offer support. Many of the traders are extremely shocked and anxious about what has happened and fear for their own safety.

“Many feel they have not had a voice in all this. They are still expected to offer the same level of service despite what has happened.”

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