CENTER CITY - The recent violence at the Fashion District has store owners on edge, including one business that has made a mission of keeping kids out of trouble.
At times, hundreds of young people line up at a store inside the Fashion District for events and sometimes free give-a-ways. But, the owner feels the violence is making the atmosphere unsafe.
"Y’all gotta chill young bulls. Y'all throwing y'all future way," he said in a passionate plea posted on Instagram.
"We willing to do different programs if y'all chill," said the owner of the motivational clothing brand HMBL, which stands for Stay Humble Stay Hungry.
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"You see this HMBL store? Anything ya'll do downtown they are coming for me," said Isaiah Thomas. He put out the message to his followers Labor Day weekend after incidents involving young people and shots fired near the Fashion District where his store is located.
"The gun violence and the negativity, that’s not cool. I want them to know it’s more out here," he said. Thomas spoke to FOX 29’s Shawnette Wilson, following an incident Tuesday where police say an 18-year-old, now in custody, was leaving the mall and fired shots back inside.
"I just try to let as much kids know, we all come from the same circumstances. I got locked up when I was 14-years-old for a gun charge and I was able to overcome my obstacles and circumstances," Thomas explained. But, he's concerned that his brand, which boasts a positive message of non-violence, and his journey to success won't survive at the Fashion District due to the violence.
"It kinda’ has a negative on what the kids do, because we have so much other youth that if they do something negative, it’s going to be looked at as me, even though I’m trying to do something positive in the city," Thomas added. With more than 58,000 followers, Thomas is at rock star status with his brand and impact on the kids.
"A lot of parents feel safe bringing their kids to HMBL. A lot of parents, they believe in my message that I’m putting out for the kids," he said. Thomas started with a candy business in high school, sold water outside the Art Museum, then got into merchandise. He sold his brand out of a car trunk and went on to open four stores.
"I would like to be here in the city of Philadelphia, because it motivates the kids and stuff like that, but if it’s not safe, then we don’t know where we’re going to be at," he said. Thomas says he’s meeting with Fashion District officials this week to discuss concerns and possible solutions.