A longtime Chattanooga jewelry business is moving from the East Main Street neighborhood where it began nearly four decades ago, in large part, because of crime concerns after an attempted robbery and gunfight two months ago.
Kennedy Jewelry is shifting to an East Brainerd location next month after 37 years at the same site, said store manager Jeremy Kennedy.
"In light of what we went through, it's time to move out of the neighborhood," he said. "Crime has a lot to do with it."
Police said two males with their faces covered entered the store on Aug. 5 at a time when a customer and several employees were inside. One was armed with an assault rifle and had a "scream" mask over his face.
One of the men said, "Get it all" or "All of it," according to police. Then the armed man fired a shot, which struck the rear of the store.
Police said Shane Kennedy, an employee, grabbed a handgun and fired several return shots at the robbers, who fled without taking anything. The armed robber fired several more shots, according to police.
No one was seriously injured, and two men later were arrested in connection with the incident, police said.
Jeremy Kennedy said "a few small incidents" had happened in the past, but "nothing like the violence" several weeks ago. Still, he said, worries about the working-class neighborhood have picked up over the past three years or so.
Young Seo, owner of the Ace Food Market nearby, said he's sorry to see Kennedy Jewelry leave. But, Seo said, he has seen a pickup in criminal activity over his 10 years in the area. "The neighborhood is getting bad," he said. "People are getting worse."
Seo said young people aren't working, and it seems that parents aren't concerned about what their children are doing.
Doug Templeton, owner of Dixie Industrial Service on East Main, said his business generally doesn't have a problem with crime, though "if you leave something outside it's liable to be taken."
"I come in and out of this business 24/7," he added about the company which has been there since 1968. "I've not had major problems."
Jeremy Kennedy said he thinks Mayor Andy Berke is trying to find solutions to crime by hiring more police officers, which he said is "much needed."
Kennedy, whose father started the business, said he thinks lawmakers ought to enact stiffer penalties for habitual offenders.
At the same time, Kennedy said he's excited about the move to the Pavilion at Panorama in East Brainerd.
"We're excited to see what the future holds for us," he said. "Dad built the building. He's excited and a little sad to leave what he started and what he built down here."
Kennedy said the store draws customers from throughout the city, but the business likely will shift its line of merchandise a little to fit the new site.
"We'll pick up some different lines once we move," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.