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Some businesses bounce back, others struggle, a year after Pulse nightclub shooting

People stop by the memorial outside of Pulse nightclub to pay tribute to the 49 victims from last year's shooting. Matt Petrillo

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In Orlando, Florida, many people will think of June 12th as the one year anniversary of a gunman walking into a gay nightclub and opening fire, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.

After the attack, nearby businesses shut their doors for more than a week while police processed the scene.

Now, some businesses are still struggling to bounce back while others are adjusting to the “new normal” in a neighborhood forever altered by the attack.

On a recent morning at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Orange Avenue, it’s very busy. Store manager Betzey Arce said business is finally picking up again after the shooting at Pulse nightclub. There’s a sense of community among businesses she said she hasn’t seen before — many still display Orlando United banners in storefronts.

“They  got really knitted. And it’s sad to see something bad has to happen for it to be that way,” Arce said.

“The people who passed away, they used to come here all the time, so it’s not easy at all,” says Dunkin’ Donuts manager Betzey Arce. 

The doughnut chain sits right next to Pulse. The nightclub has not reopened, but it has become a makeshift memorial. Visitors from all over the world come by to pay their respects. Arce watches through a store window. For her, it all serves as a daily reminder of the lives lost.

“The people who passed away, they used to come here all the time, so it’s not easy at all,” she said.

This part of Orange Avenue is filled with medical offices, restaurants and retail shops, but not every business has bounced back. Over at Innovative Electronics, a few stores down from Pulse, Blenus Martin is ringing up a customer.

Pulse’s owner has proposed making the memorial outside the nightclub permanent.

He pointed out that after the shooting, many of the nearby businesses lost money. That’s because police closed part of Orange Avenue for nine days after the shooting to process the scene, so businesses had to shut down, too. When they did reopen, there was less foot traffic. Martin estimates Innovative Electronics has been losing $4,000 to $5,000 a month since the shooting.

“It’s just people tend to not come this way because of that building sitting there, you know? I don’t think they want to see the building, is what it is,” he said.

Now, Pulse’s owner has proposed transforming the makeshift memorial into a permanent one, with input from the community.

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