Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah’s name.
By Logan Roddy, contributor
After someone shattered a front window at Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah’s gourmet popcorn shop PrePOPsterous on Main Street in Bridgewater earlier this week, community members have been pitching in to pay for the damage and find the culprit.
While the Bridgewater police described the vandalism as unusual for the city, McCoy-Ntiamoah, who is Black, said she hopes the incident was random and not motivated by race. She said she has felt welcomed in Bridgewater and has no reason to think race was a factor. At the same time, she said she can’t think of any motives related to her business.
“Most people don’t get upset over popcorn,” McCoy-Ntiamoah said. “We haven’t had any disgruntled customers or anything.”
The incident occurred sometime between when McCoy-Ntiamoah and her team went home Sunday after 5 p.m. and arrived Monday at 8 a.m. The object used to shatter the window was a plaster lamb figurine taken from the outside of the antique gift shop Rebecca’s Well across the street.
Becki Witt, who owns the gift shop, said she’s only seen one other act of vandalism like this in her 35 years of business in Bridgewater.
“I had someone throw a rock at my front window a couple years ago, but something like this is rare,” Witt said. “I’m just surprised no one heard anything and nothing broke.”
Bridgewater Police collected the lamb as evidence and are in the process of collecting and examining security footage from the nearby businesses from Sunday night to find the vandal. Chief of Police Joe Simmons said police don’t have leads yet.
“This has not happened in Bridgewater in a long time,” Simmons said. “We’re working with those in the area to examine the footage and find whoever did this.”
Bridgewater police also increased nighttime patrols and surveillance around that area.
Diane Roll, who leases the North River Marketplace from the Bridgewater Retirement Community, also runs the Dayton Catering Company and Your Dinner that shares a space with PrePOPsterous. She said the response from the community has been helpful.
“I feel that that’s a part of doing business — especially when you’re in a downtown area, you have meanderers, you’re in a college town,” Roll said. “It’s no different than breaking a dish, or somebody steals something out of your yard like they did across the street, that’s the nature of human beings.”
She also said Bridgewater Bank has offered loan insurance to pay for the repair of the window, and that Kerry Cofield, owner of Sign Pro, is working on a replacement window decal for PrePOPsterous.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned from 2020 and the course of the pandemic, it’s that big business is taking care of small business,” Roll said.
For McCoy-Ntiamoah, the response has been a positive in an otherwise difficult time.
“I have a lot of support,” McCoy-Ntiamoah said. “I’m not originally from this area, so there’s a different network for people that are native to this area versus those that are not. But I’ve been in this community now for probably 17 years so I definitely have a community of support.”
McCoy-Ntiamoah launched her business in 2015 as an ecommerce market while she was working at James Madison University’s College of Business, with the hopes of one day turning it into a full-time gig. She turned her passion into her job in May 2019 when the North River Marketplace space became available and said she is happy to see her work turn into a downtown retail storefront.
“I think some of that stems from having a community of colleagues at JMU that knew I had a passion for gourmet popcorn and knew I wanted to start my own business eventually,” McCoy-Ntiamoah said.
Despite the cracks in the glass, Roll and McCoy-Ntiamoah are conducting business as usual, and said they wouldn’t let a random occurrence damper their spirits.
“If the attempt was any attack of terror or fear,” Roll said, “they didn’t get it.”
Journalism is changing, and that’s why The Citizen is here. We’re independent. We’re local. We pay our contributors, and the money you give goes directly to the reporting. No overhead. No printing costs. Just facts, stories and context. We’re also a proud member of the Virginia Press Association. Thanks for your support.