Community support is pouring in after an owner of a Nova Scotia convenience store ended up in hospital after an alleged attack earlier in the week.
Kamil and Silva Safatli, who have been married for 25 years, run Jake’s Variety on Portland Street in downtown Dartmouth.
Early Thursday morning, as Kamil was bringing products into the store, he said a man attacked him from behind.
“He hit me on the head, pushed me on the ground, and started punching me in the face,” said Kamil, who still had a visible bruise around his eye Saturday.
The Safatlis say the man was a regular, who they had given free food and coffee in the past.
Kamil said he managed to restrain the man until police arrived. Kamil was examined at the hospital and sent home later that day.
Luckily, he had no permanent damage, but he said the incident left him “very stressed” and “very scared.”
Silva, Kamil’s wife, said the attack has left them feeling unsafe in their store. “I’m still stressed when I talk about it,” she said Saturday.
The Safatlis said this isn’t the first incident to happen at Jake’s Variety.
The store has been robbed three times in the last month, they said, and the couple – who are both originally from Lebanon – have also faced racist insults and harassment.
Silva said the problem has been getting worse in recent months, and is making her fear for the safety of their children, who are both in their late teens.
“It’s not fair what’s been happening to us … I’m afraid to walk at night anymore,” she said.
While the family loves serving the community, they are tired of being scared to go to work.
“We have to support the kids, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future,” said Silva. “I don’t know if I can handle it anymore.”
Kamil added: “We don’t want to be in a stressed situation 24/7. It’s not worth it.”
Both would like to see more police patrols in the area to help curb the violence they’ve been experiencing.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police confirmed officers responded to the assault at 7:40 a.m. Thursday.
“Officers located and arrested a 58-year-old male at the scene,” the statement said. “The male was charged with assault causing bodily harm and held for court.”
The statement did not say if police would consider increasing patrols in downtown Dartmouth.
‘Some of the most selfless people ever’
Hannah Kersey, who lives in the area and has known the Safatlis for years, said she was “absolutely heartbroken” and “infuriated” to hear about what happened to Kamil.
“It hurts to know that kind of stuff happens to them, especially because they’re some of the sweetest, most genuine people that I’ve gotten to meet, and they don’t deserve that kind of treatment,” she said.
Kersey said Jake’s Variety has been a “staple” in the community for many years, and the owners are always willing to step up and help when it’s needed.
She noted that in the days after post-tropical storm Fiona knocked out power in the region, Jake’s remained open, running on a generator and offering people a place to charge their phones and get a hot cup of coffee.
“They’ve helped so many people. Even if they hardly know you, they’re always willing to help you out if they see that you need it,” she said.
“That’s just the kind of people that they are. If they see an opportunity to help out another individual, they’re all over it. They’re some of the most selfless people ever.”
That’s why she started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the Safatlis get back on their feet. As of Saturday afternoon, it had already racked up more than $4,000 in donations.
Kersey said she was “blown away” by the support.
“It’s really heartwarming to see that community love that’s been given already, and hopefully it just keeps going up from there,” she said.
“I can’t even really put a dollar amount on how much these guys deserve, because it’s a lot.”
Jane MacDougald, who owns the Dart Gallery next door, said the incident was “heartbreaking.”
“They’re friends and neighbours, and obviously, it’s very upsetting, it’s really sad,” she said. “They’re good people, and they are so kind to everyone in the community, and they deserve better.”
She said she was glad to see so much immediate support for the couple, but added it’s important that the support remains ongoing.
“Yes, absolutely, we want to lift people up when they are in a time of need … but I really hope that everyone remembers and keeps going there in the future,” MacDougald said.
“It’s the most important thing you can do for a local business, is support them in the long run.”
Meanwhile, the Safatlis said they’re grateful for all the love and support they’ve received in the last few days.
Since the attack, customers have been coming by to drop off flowers, chocolates and even a “get well” card for Kamil.
The support has been “awesome,” he said.
“Everybody came by the next day, saying ‘I’m sorry to hear that, how are you feeling, anything we can do for you?’” said Kamil.
Silva also said she was encouraged by the support.
“There’s good people still out here,” she said.