Damage sets back debut of Nancy's new downtown home

Jim Weiker
jweiker@dispatch.com
Richelle Buchanan scrubs the counter June 2 during cleanup efforts at Nancy's Home Cooking. The restaurant's new location on Lynn Street in downtown Columbus was broken into and vandalized during recent protests.

It's the most difficult video Rick Hahn has seen.

For three hours May 30, Hahn watched helplessly as a video camera showed dozens of people breaking into his downtown restaurant, Nancy's Home Cooking.

Hahn saw them crash through his door, ransack his counters, smash his cash register and walk off with countertop appliances, tools and equipment.

"We could hear the noise and yells of the protesters," Hahn said. "Then it got quiet, and then the glass door got broken and a rush of people came in."

Nancy's was one of dozens of businesses damaged in the core of downtown, especially along Broad, High and Gay streets, during recent protests. While many suffered only broken windows, others, including restaurants such as Milestone 229, Tiger + Lily and Poke Bros., also were looted.

Hahn was a few weeks away from opening Nancy's in the former site of Jack's Diner, 52 Lynn St. After more than a half-century in Clintonville, Nancy's decided to move because of problems with its longtime High Street building.

In Clintonville, Nancy's had become an institution for its friendly neighborhood vibe and its charitable work. Each Thanksgiving, Nancy's served hundreds of people in need, and the restaurant's "Pay It Forward" program collected donations to provide food and hygiene kits for the homeless.

A box with $50 to $60 in donations was one of the first things Hahn saw taken in the video.

"It's not a lot, but it's a lot to people in need," he said.

From shortly after midnight May 30 until about 3 a.m., Hahn watched the damage as strangers tore through his restaurant.

On June 2, when things were calmer, Hahn and his girlfriend, Richelle Buchanan, headed to the restaurant to start cleaning up and to inventory the damage for an insurance claim.

Buchanan started watching the video herself May 30 but had to stop.

"For me, it was too hard to watch – just devastating," she said.

Hahn said he understands the protesters' concerns and knows those who damaged his restaurant are an exception. But he doesn't understand the random violence, especially since it prevents him from helping others.

"I'm frustrated because of that," he said. "We could have been open in two weeks and could have helped a lot of people in that time."

Now, Hahn estimates that he won't open until early July. After losing his longtime Clintonville location, being prevented from reopening because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and now vandalism, "we've had a heck of a year."

"There's been tragedy and there's been greatness," he said. "I'm just tired of being part of the tragedy. I'm unsubscribing to that.

"People need to find love again."

jweiker@dispatch.com

@JimWeiker