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Video: Michigan music store owner weeps at losing dream business over coronavirus lockdown

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton/released).
May 15, 2020

Steve Walker, the owner of Walker Music & Textiles Co. in Hastings, Mich. is going out of business for good after struggling to pay bills while staying closed in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders.

Walker announced he was closing down his music store, during an interview with Fox 17. “It’s not just the closing of a store,” Walker said through tears. “It’s a closing of a dream.”

“This is who I am,” Walker said, gesturing to his store. “People who know me know it is.”

Walker said his town he had been waiting for 60 days now for the word from Whitmer when he might reopen his business. During that time he said he watched neighboring businesses that had been deemed “essential” by the governor’s orders continue to work “day in, day out.”

“They aren’t thriving but they are surviving,” he said. “There’s no reason in hell I couldn’t have done the same thing.”

Walker said he applied for financial assistance for his business during the ongoing shutdown, but received none. He said only $32,800 had been granted to businesses in his county, assisting only five businesses.

“I don’t want a stupid handout from the government,” Walker said. “I want my hands untied so I can work.”

While no business was coming in, Walker’s store has still had to cover costs for things like utilities and insurance. Now the family-owned business plans to sell off its inventory of instruments and textiles as it closes permanently.

“This is my dream. Shutting it down. Closing out this phase of my life,” Walker said. “It won’t be a retail shop anymore and it won’t be an inviting environment for kids to come and be loved and to learn music.”

Walker and his son Mike offered to play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” for the Fox 17 news crew, but he had to stop partway through when he began weeping again. He said, “I can’t do it.”

Walker’s decision to close down comes as many Michiganders have protested against Whitmer’s lockdown orders, which have been in place for weeks and which she recently extended.

Other business owners have also struggled with various state lockdown orders throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Shelley Luther, a salon owner in Dallas, Texas was arrested for opening up her shop for business in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s lockdown orders. She was later arrested and jailed for violating the lockdown. During Luther’s sentencing, the judge presiding over her case offered leniency if she apologized for her actions and admit they were selfish.

Given the opportunity to receive leniency, Luther instead replied, “I have to disagree with you sir, when you say that I’m selfish, because feeding my kids is not selfish.”

“I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids,” Luther added. “So, sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”

Following her sentencing, Luther received an outpouring of support for her business and her actions.

The same day she was jailed, Abbott announced salons and other similar businesses could reopen within days. A day later the Texas Supreme Court ordered Luther released from jail and Abbott announced he would eliminate jail time as a penalty for those who violate the lockdown orders.