CITY CENTER – Recent violence in the Fashion District has put store owners on edge, including one business that has made it a mission to keep kids out of trouble.
From time to time, hundreds of young people line up at a store within the Fashion District for events and sometimes free gifts. But the owner thinks the violence is making the atmosphere unsafe.
“You have to calm the young bulls. You have to go to the future,” he said in an impassioned plea posted on Instagram.
“We are willing to do different programs if you are quiet,” said the owner of motivational clothing brand HMBL, which stands for Stay Humble Stay Hungry.
“You see this HMBL store? Anything you’re going to do downtown they’re going to come for me,” Isaiah Thomas said. He sent the message to his followers over the Labor Day weekend following incidents involving youths and shootings near the Fashion District where his store is located.
“Gun violence and negativity, that’s not pretty. I want them to know it’s more out there,” he said. Thomas spoke to FOX 29’s Shawnette Wilson following an incident Tuesday where police say an 18-year-old man, now in custody, was walking out of the mall and fired back inside.
“I just try to let as many kids know, we all come from the same circumstances. I got locked up when I was 14 on a gun charge and I was able to overcome my obstacles and my circumstances,” Thomas explained. But he is worried that his brand, which prides itself on a positive message of non-violence and its journey to success, will not survive in the Fashion District because of the violence.
“There’s a kind of negativity in what the kids do because we have so many other young people that if they do something negative, it’s going to be seen as me, even though I’m trying to do something positive in the city,” added Thomas. With more than 58,000 followers, Thomas is rock star status with his brand and impact on kids.
“A lot of parents feel safe bringing their kids to HMBL. A lot of parents, they believe in my message that I’m giving to the kids,” he said. Thomas started a candy business in high school, sold water outside the Art Museum, and then moved into merchandise. He sold his brand out of the trunk of a car and went on to open four stores.
“I would love to be here in the city of Philadelphia because it motivates the kids and things like that, but if it’s not safe, then we don’t know where we’re going to be,” he said. Thomas says he will meet with Fashion District officials this week to discuss concerns and possible solutions.