Lemon Grove

Young Lemon Grove Entrepreneur Undeterred by Pandemic and Vandals

Someone shattered Zachary Hamlett's coffee-shop windows on two occasions.

NBC Universal, Inc.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Zachary Hamlett said. “I was like, ‘What? What? Why could anyone do this?’ ”

Hamlett was standing behind the counter of his future coffee shop in Lemon Grove, which he will call The Hamlett. He looked straight ahead at the three windows he already fixed.

“And then, Boom!” Hamlett said, looking at another wall of windows. ”They go after another one, and now, now reality is really hitting me hard.”

Hamlett said someone broke three windows along Lemon Grove Avenue in February. Someone broke another window along Broadway last week.

“It seems targeted," Hamlett said. "Someone’s doing this on purpose.”

"The case is still under investigation," a representative for the San Diego Sheriff's Department told NBC 7 on Tuesday. "Detectives with the Lemon Grove Sheriff's Substation will follow up on any leads they receive. We don't have any information to indicate if the crime was racially motivated or not.  However, the sheriff's department takes all hate crimes seriously and makes them a top priority."

The 19-year-old first-time businessman was clearly frustrated. He said he filed reports with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and intends to install even more security cameras.

He was not deterred from his mission, however.

“We are at The Hamlett coffee shop,” he said, beaming with pride. “This space is going to be an apothecary. This space is going to be a black-owned incubator for new black-owned businesses.”

Hamlett planned the venture last year when social justice protests galvanized the country. He said he wanted to build something that would build up his community.

“Hope, unity -- that’s what we’re all about here,” Hamlett said with a smile. “I’m so close to actually helping and being a part of change, and it’s just so crazy.”

Hamlett planned to open Jan. 1, but the pandemic and vandalism combined to delay his coffee shop/incubator from opening. He said he’s targeting to open his doors sometime before May 1.

“Especially now, with getting into red tier," Hamlett said. "Now it’s becoming an even better time to open up."

Hamlett added that it’s not about his enterprise. He said it’s about giving the community a space to make sure everyone can succeed.

“A space of community, a space of unity,” he concluded.

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