A recent spree of vandalism left downtown businesses and building owners feeling less than festive over the holidays as they discovered their properties had been befouled with neon orange vulgarities, leaving them to clean up the mess. But two local companies are pitching in to help.
Kendra Allen was shocked and upset when a friend messaged her on social media to say she was sorry about the vandalism to Allen’s storefront in downtown Kingston, “I hadn’t heard about any vandalism yet… We were closed over Christmas and had planned to open on the 29th for a sale.”
Allen’s friend told her vulgar words had been spray painted on a window and doorway. “So I just got in the car and went right downtown to check it out,” she said. “I was glad to see that it wasn’t like multiple windows… so it definitely could have been much worse. I’m glad there were no broken windows or anything like that.”
However, the incident left her feeling uneasy and frustrated.
Allen owns Moxie and Mine, a consignment plus thrift shop specializing in pre-owned bridal wear and second-hand vintage and designer fashion. She shares retail space at 95 Clarence Street with fellow business Thrifty Girl, owned by Katrina Kryza.
It was disheartening for Allen and Kryza, who only opened their shop in July of 2023, to see bright orange spray paint marring their entrance. Allen said, “It was just really hard to see the storefront like that because we have put a lot of love into it… We had our sign installed recently; I painted the pink background of the sign, and then a friend of mine installed all the letters. And we’ve worked hard on the interior. Being a new business is hard in itself, and then just to see that was kind of disturbing. I know it’s just paint, but it makes you feel very shaky.”
“At first I thought, ‘Oh no, why would someone do this? Is there someone that for some reason wants to scare us?’” Allen said. But she heard later that day that multiple buildings, privately owned shops, and some City-owned properties were also defaced.
However, this is not just a bad news story. What happened next, Allen said, is nothing short of “heroic.”
When Allen took to Instagram to share the sad images of her storefront, she soon saw a comment from Rebekah Traynor, one of the owners of Paint Beast. “She reached out to us saying, ‘If you want any help, let us know.’ At first [I was] sure that they would be charging. But then she also sent me a direct message that they liked to take care of graffiti for people for free.”
“So Katrina met Rebekah and her husband [at the store] first thing in the morning… Not even 24 hours later, they were there helping us. It was just really amazing.”
Rebekah Traynor and Dylan Mastrianni were painting at the Homestyle Deli when they saw Allen’s Instagram post about the vandalism.
The married couple are the owners of Paint Beast, a Kingston-based painting and design business. They also despise graffiti when it damages people’s property. Mastrianni is a graffiti artist himself, but he prefers to put his talents to use constructively.
Traynor explained that what happened next was just a desire to help out the community. She and Mastrianni immediately posted on Allen’s story, explaining that they were in the area, had the tools, and would be happy to help out.
“The next morning, we went over to the store and saw the window. [Paint is] super easy to get off windows. That door was a little bit more challenging… You’re gonna see that neon orange coming through no matter how many coats of white paint you put on. So I knew it was a little bit more intense.”
That’s where Design On Kingston entered the picture. Traynor explained that she and Mastrianni often clean up graffiti around town and that Design On Kingston provides them with the equipment to do so, free of charge.
“They are amazing with everything that we do, and they honour us when we do it. So we don’t have to do anything out of pocket. They give us all the paint, the primers, the graffiti remover, everything right down to the gloves. They give us everything free for these projects that we do to clean up the graffiti around town,” she explained.
Traynor said that the Design On Kingston team and owners Andy and Marcy Nemes are “absolutely incredible” in supporting their work of making Kingston a cleaner city. “We do this, and they are right behind us… So it’s not costly to us; it’s not costly to the business owners… We are huge believers in businesses helping other businesses… That’s how you get through the day.”
Traynor said the whole cleanup at Moxie and Mine and Thrifty Girl took about 20 minutes, and then they decided to spend the day going around and offering to help other businesses that got hit with the bright orange graffiti plague. “It was just a really quick and easy thing that we can do. We love helping out our community.”
Traynor said she and Mastrianni have two preschool-aged children. “Our six-year-old, she’s coming out painting with us a little bit today. She loves to come out with us, and we love to show her that this is what you do for your community and instill that value while she’s still young.”
Allen is very grateful to Paint Beast and posted a tribute to them on Instagram, thanking them for proving that love is greater than hate. She wrote, “It hurts that someone would do this to a small local business that sometimes barely gets by… We never know what will happen next; we manage a lot as it is, and then this. But what I’ve really learned is of the love in the community that carries on and truly fights back when times are tough. Thank you [Paint Beast] for showing up for us and showing us you care about us. It really means a lot. Thank you.”
Traynor and Mastrianni would like to let other downtown businesses affected by the graffiti know that they are available to help. They can be contacted through their website.
Kingston Police issued a press release about the spate of vandalism in the downtown core on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.
“Members of the Kingston Police Criminal Investigation Division are currently investigating multiple incidents of vandalism which occurred in the downtown core during the early morning hours of December 28, 2023. Numerous businesses, buildings and fixtures in the area bounded by Barrie Street, Johnson Street, Ontario Street and Queen Street were ‘tagged’ with orange spray paint,” police said.
“Police are asking that any businesses or residential buildings with video of the two involved suspects in this series of incidents please retain their video and contact police to file a report. A report can be filed with Kingston Police by calling 613-549-4660 ext. 0.”
With files from Tori Stafford.