“I think you should go check on the store.”
Princess Pope was already in a bad mood when she got the call from her sister. Images of Black bodies being brutalized in cities across the nation had affected her spirit. She couldn’t scroll through social media without seeing faces like hers thrust against sidewalks and pelted with rubber bullets.
“I’ve been so sad,” she told HelloBeautiful. “I’ve been keeping up with it.” A persistent crick in her neck forced thoughts of George Floyd into every other quiet moment she had.
“All I could think about was him, like, oh my gosh, my neck hurts so bad. Like I can’t, I can’t even believe how he felt with that guy’s knee on his back. So I’ve been thinking about him nonstop. I feel connected to him and this situation,” the boutique owner told HelloBeautiful.
She was initially relieved to find her sister’s concerns unfounded. When she arrived at Guns and Roses, the business she had been building since 2010, it was intact. “I just hurried up and left and went to go check on the store. It’s five minutes from where I live and so I’m right next door to a 7/11. So that window had been busted out but the store was safe.”
From where she was standing she had a clear view of the unrest. “I can see the protesters and the police right up the street,” she said describing the moments before her business was attacked. “And so, um, I’m like, ‘Oh, they must have already came down this street.’ And so I thought the store was safe.”
She stayed in her parked car surveying the area fully before feeling comfortable enough to grab dinner “right down the street.”
“I sat in my car for about five minutes,” she said. She thought everything would be fine. She wasn’t going far. A transplant from Oakland who had fully embraced the Southern lifestyle she frequently patronized other businesses in the area.
Her store is beloved by Dallas residents and tourists. Proud Texan Erykah Badu has been known to scoop up their exclusive styles and other celebrities including Big Sean, Romeo Miller, and Angela Simmons stop by when they’re in town. “It’s like a landmark in the city. We specialize in both men and women’s clothes. Everybody comes to us. It’s like a home away from home.”
Pope is just as popular as her business. She mentors up-and-coming entrepreneurs, preparing them to excel in the fashion industry. “I teach my mentees how to buy, how to negotiate, how to run their own business,” she said.
“One of my favorite quotes is from TD Jakes and he says, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to think like one. So I really, really, um, just believe in that philosophy. So, I just have a passion for teaching people how to be their own boss and have a think like a boss.”
She lends clothing to stylists for shoots, hosts toy drives for a nearby food pantry, hires local aspiring models, and supports local events regularly. “People respect us in the city and we give back so much like if anybody needs anything related to fashion they know to come to Guns and Roses boutique first.” She carries local clothing brands looking to break out and selects inventory that spoke to the city’s equestrian culture. “We have all the maps, all the cowboys. They all come to the store.”
In 2017 she was named “Best Boutique,” at the Local Love Awards. Prior to having her store wrecked she was working on a plan for expanding the thriving business.
Many of the boutiques social media posts promoting their participation in community events feature the hashtag #wedoitforthepeople.
Pope makes it a point to feed the downtrodden in the area when she could and would give work to anyone who was looking for it, no matter what their social standing. She prides herself on treating everyone with dignity.
“Lately it’s been a lot of homeless people in the streets. So I see them, um, I employ them, you know, I give them tasks to do anybody that comes to the store, they always come in and ask for me by my name.”
Shortly after pulling off she heard the familiar clanging of her alarm system. She had been gone for less than seven minutes. That’s how long it took to undo over a decade of work.
“I lived downtown, I worked downtown. My store is downtown, so mostly everything I do is downtown,” she said.
She arrived to fragments of her dream littering the pavement. The golden mannequins she loved so much stripped of their carefully chosen garments. The windows shattered.
She didn’t think the city she loved so dearly could hurt her so badly. “Up until last night, I didn’t think that I would be affected by that. I didn’t think that I was a target.”
Pope believes the looting, and vandalism can be credited to the reckless behavior of agitators, and rebellious teenagers, not activists or protestors. She came face to face with a few stragglers during the incident. “It was a very diverse crowd,” she said. “It was Mexicans. I seen a couple of white people, a couple of black people. It was not just black people. And the people that I seen was young.”
“Everything was peaceful,” she said about the Black Lives Matter protest. “I honestly don’t feel like it was the protesters. I feel like it was the looters afterwards.”
She repeatedly stated that those who looted her establishment were part of a separate group with an agenda to steal quality merchandise. “I think looters were doing their job last night.”
“They weren’t protesting for anything in particular. They were seeing what can they grab, what can they steal,” she continued.
Guns and Roses boutique is insured but many of the things taken were custom creations that are irreplaceable. “Some of the things and items that I have in there if I’m not going to be able to get back,” she said.
“They had a group at the tail end who were attacking businesses. They hit main street first. That’s Neiman Marcus and Traffic, very high end stores. And um, then they came over to Commerce. So they were at that point, they’re looking to see what else can they get in and run through really quickly, you know?”
Pope wasn’t letting them run through her. She physically fought off individuals who were still trying to enter the store when she arrived. “I had to pick up a stick and kind of fight people from going in there but not a lot of people, like maybe one and two here and one and two there,” she said.
She didn’t care that she was a woman. She didn’t care that she was alone. She only cared about protecting what she had left. “I just thought that I am not about to sit here and let nobody go in my store in front of me. So I was really, I was ready to fight for what was mine,” she added.
She stood steely in front of the broken windows.
“I was not afraid. I was almost numb. Like I couldn’t believe that this was happening. And then it was just a couple of people, so I kind of felt like I could take them.”
She was left unharmed. “I’m physically okay. Um, mentally and emotionally drained, but I’m physically okay,” she said.
The story of Pope brandishing a stick to save what was left of her inventory spread through social media instantly. She was met with an outpouring of love from her adopted home city. They did not support thieves taking advantage of others suffering, and were ready to stand by the business owner.
“The support has been amazing. It’s really lifted my spirits and now I want to show people what it is to overcome these kinds of trials and tribulations. No, we can’t plan for this, but you know, you have to stand strong and stand tall and don’t let things like this just just wear you down. You stand. So that’s, that’s what I’m doing right now. Today. I just took a stand and tomorrow I’m going to plan.”
She plans to turn the tragedy into a teachable moment. “I want to be able to show young entrepreneurs how to reemerge in situations like this and just how to bounce back.”
Pope wants the public to know that her dreams for expansion have been deferred but not destroyed.
“Guns and Roses is going to come back better than ever.”