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Recovering after an unsettling in-store attack that left their store damaged and one of them injured, Domus owners Luisa Cerutti and Nicki Lindheimer are grateful for the uplifting and unwavering support of the Hell’s Kitchen community in their time of need.
“We don’t want to focus too much too much on what happened,” said Cerutti of the July 1 incident where a man physically assaulted Lindheimer inside the store. “We decided to say something on Instagram because we want to honor the fact that people have really been coming to our support and showering us with love.”
Love and community care are of the highest importance to Cerutti and Lindheimer — who emphasized that all are welcome in their charming, thoughtfully-curated home decor store that’s been a staple of Hell’s Kitchen for decades and the winner of a W42ST reader award for Best Store in 2020. “Sometimes we have people who wander in who do try to take the merchandise, but they’re usually not threatening and we’re usually able to humor them to give it back,” said Cerutti.
But on July 1 – just a few doors away from the place where a Turkish man was stabbed in a vicious hate crime earlier this year — a shirtless man entered the store, refused to leave and attempted to take the couple’s jar filled with donations for Ukraine aid — “He pushed me up against a glass cabinet which shattered,” said Lindheimer, “and then the jar that he was holding broke and Nicki fell on it and cut her arm,” added Cerutti.
In a statement, the NYPD told W42ST: “On July 1, 2022 at 3:10 pm Jamel Gram 30-year-old male was asked to leave the establishment when he forced his way into the location a removed a tip jar. He then shoved a 58-year-old woman into a glass cabinet causing a laceration to her back and shoulder. Gram was charged with robbery.”
A customer present during the attack tended to Lindheimer, taking her to an urgent care clinic for 10 stitches as Cerutti called 911 and chased the perpetrator. “The police finally showed up 40 minutes later,” said Cerutti. The initial officers who arrived declared the incident out of their jurisdiction and passed the job to another local precinct before leaving. Domus is covered by NYPD from Midtown North, the next street south by the 10th Precinct and across 9th Avenue by Midtown South. “Meanwhile, the guy who attacked Nicki went south,” added Cerutti. Check out the map of this policing crossroads in our “Who ya gonna call? NYPD?” story in July 2020.
Despite the tepid response by the police, Lindheimer and Cerutti were immediately surrounded by neighbors who wanted to help. “The customer who was with us in the store took Nicki to the clinic and spent hours with her there,” said Cerutti. “Another customer came and stayed in the store while I was with the police looking for the guy on the street. And another customer came in and cleaned up broken glass in the store all day. All week, we’ve had people coming by, bringing flowers and wine and pies and making replacement donations for Ukraine — we are in such a lovely community.”
Several hours after the attack the suspect was located and arrested, which Cerutti and Lindheimer attribute to their building’s super. “Our super saw him in front of our doorway, and it ended up being two police officers from Midtown North and two from the other precinct that took him in,” added Cerutti.
Fellow sidestreet store owner, Matt Fox from Fine and Dandy told us: “It’s just horrifying hearing what happened to Nicki and Luisa. Literally, the nicest ladies in the neighborhood (and Hell’s Kitchen retail pioneers). I guess it’s times like these when people come together and it’s heartwarming to see the support from the community. After all, Hell’s Kitchen is the last neighborhood in Manhattan with a small-town feel.”
The ordeal has made Lindheimer and Cerutti reconsider their (literal) open-door policy, if only for their own safety. “We are going to lock the door, and we hope that customers won’t give up on a small store because it’s locked. We’re asking everyone to be a little patient as we figure this out and open the door manually for visitors,” said Cerutti. Customers will be able to ring a bell for entry.
The two proprietors are happy to be back in businesses in the neighborhood that showed up for them when they needed it most. “I think after the stitches come out, the memories we’ll have will be of all the people that showed us love rather than what the man did that day,” said Cerutti. “I know it sounds corny, but the light pushes out the darkness, you know? Love wins.”
Although Nicki and Luisa have pictures of the destruction at their store and injuries, they did not want to share them for this story. They said: “We do have photos but we’d rather focus on the good.”