Fluffy’s Sno-Balls, a New Orleans-style shaved ice shop, has been open just a little more than a year, but in that span of time, its owners say vandals have twice broken the shop’s glass door, a woman once tried to damage other property at the store, and a man wielding a lighter and an aerosol can even threatened to set co-owner Kevin Lee-Wellington on fire.
After the string of crimes, Lee-Wellington says he’s been grateful for the support he’s gotten from the Long Beach community, but it hasn’t stopped the store from being a target. On Monday, the shop was hit again: This time the suspect successfully broke into the shop and stole a small speaker.
The break-in happened at 7:47 a.m. as a Metro train approached the station on Long Beach Boulevard at Anaheim Street just in front of Fluffy’s Sno-Balls. For three hours, Lee-Wellington says, pedestrians and cars passed by, but no one called police about the broken window. It went unreported until Lee-Wellington arrived to prep for opening the shop at 11 a.m.
“I feel like I don’t understand why it keeps happening,” said Lee-Wellington. “So many people love the product, love our company, and it’s a bit perplexing why this keeps happening.”
Tuesday, Kevin and his husband and co-owner, Darren Lee-Wellington, decided to close the store to address their emotional and mental health. When Kevin returned to the shop on Wednesday, he had to once again call police. This time, he says, a woman in the store threatened violence as Kevin prepared to open.
Fluffy’s Sno-Balls is at 1208 Long Beach Blvd., just a few feet from a small homeless encampment, but Kevin says he’s trying to avoid making any assumptions about the people vandalizing his store.
“I could look at people who are unhoused or struggling with drug addiction struggling with mental illness and want to place judgment, want to think they are a bad people,” Kevin said. “But I know every person isn’t a bad person.”
While he is trying to see the best in people, he admits, his “optimism is waning.”
Kevin would like to install a gate to prevent future break-ins, but that requires permission from his landlord, Beach Front Property Management. Kevin says he has reached out to the management company in hopes of finding a solution, but they have not responded. They also didn’t return a call Wednesday from the Long Beach Post.
While he waits for a solution, Kevin says he hopes police, whom he sees patrolling the area consistently, will keep an extra eye out. He also hopes the politicians who stopped by the shop to offer support when Fluffy’s Sno-Balls first opened will reach out to see how they can help.