When Kristin Kohn opened up Silver in the City on Massachusetts Avenue two decades ago, she wanted to make a difference. Now, with the newly created Silver Linings Fund, the store plans on helping minority-owned businesses in Indianapolis.
“Our No. 1 mission has always been to make every person who walks into our store feel welcome, that’s part of our overall mission and vision,” Kohn said. “The protests definitely helped us drill down and think about things we can do and changes we can make to make an environment that feels more familiar to people of color.”
Through the fund, Kohn and the staff of Silver in the City will raise money through donations from customers and through a $5 sticker which reads “I Love Silver Linings.” Thanks to a partnership between the store and the Central Indiana Community Fund (CICF), the money will provide grants to minority-owned businesses affected by COVID-19.
“As a white-owned business, I want to help owners who may not have access to the kinds of credit or opportunities that we have,” Kohn said.
So far, Kohn said her shop has raised over $7,200, which she’s donated.
Kohn said being a business owner in downtown Indianapolis comes with the obligation of acknowledging and addressing the disparities that exist within the community. That obligation, she said, became apparent during the aftermath of the protests downtown.
The staff of Silver in the City boarded up their windows preemptively — something Kohn said she was initially against — because the store couldn’t handle the financial burden of replacing windows after being closed for nearly three months due to COVID-19. Workers designed the boards, featuring the names of African Americans who were killed at the hands of police.
When reporters were looking for business owners to address property damage following the protests, Kohn didn’t want any part in that narrative.
“I felt like all I was seeing were stories about the damage,” Kohn said. “I didn’t want to be a part of that story, I wanted reporters to focus on the reason why people were protesting. That’s what should have gotten the attention.”
The Silver Linings Fund isn’t the first time Silver in the City has given back to the community. In the past, the shop has had 100% donations days, where funds supported reproductive rights and the Indiana Youth Group, a foundation supporting LGBTQ youth and young adults. However, with racial disparities still evident in Indianapolis and an ongoing pandemic, Kohn has long-term plans for the fund.
“I found out The Mind Trust is creating Community Learning Centers, and that immediately flew to the top of our list,” Kohn said. “I’d like to raise enough for both [business grants] and creating safe learning centers for students to go to during the day for their virtual learning.”
While Hoosiers are grappling with the effects of COVID-19 and the economic issues that have come along with it, Kohn said she’s confident the Silver Linings Fund will continue to be a success, because as she said, giving is in the Hoosier spirit.
“I think, in general, Hoosiers are connectors,” Kohn said. “… I do think it’s something that Hoosiers will support, and they’ll want to connect with communities other than their own to help bring about change.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.