RICHMOND, Va. -- For nearly 50 years, Simpson’s Market has been a pillar in Richmond’s Highland Park neighborhood, sitting just off Meadowbridge Road near Six Points.
The family who runs the store is sending their love up to Highland Park, Illinois, where a gunman killed seven people and injured dozens during a 4th of July parade.
Chaya Simpson, whose father Mike owns and opened Simpson’s Market, points out one of the several times her father’s efforts got recognition in the paper.
“Talking about how there were over 2,000 people at the cookout and that they would do it every single year,” she said Wednesday evening at the store.
The cookout was a free July 4th event Simpson’s Market hosted for the neighborhood for years, but in the early 2000s, it was canceled because of concerns over community violence.
For the first time in 15 years, the cookout was back on in 2022 and hundreds, if not more, neighbors showed up.
“It was always just a great vibe to be a part of that I feel like was missing in the neighborhood,” Simpson said. “It was really fun to look outside and see people dancing and singing and laughing.”
Only later in the day did Simpson hear the news of the shattered celebration in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Although the two areas do only share a name, Simpson said her family’s heart is heavy for their fellow Americans who lost their lives.
“From this Highland Park to that Highland Park, we are all one. We are grieving with you. It’s really tragic,” she said.
Like many in Richmond, Simpson said she got an anxious feeling, albeit after the fact when she heard the news Wednesday that Richmond Police foiled a mass shooting plot targeting fireworks shows here.
“Everyone was out here having a great time, no ill-intentions, everyone was here to have fun, but in hindsight hearing, there was a possible threat kind of scares me a little,” Simpsons said, adding they have a good relationship with RPD officers in Highland Park.
“All day long, they were just like riding through making sure everyone was okay, but I would say in this Highland Park community everyone is kind of like the police. Everybody looks out for each other; it’s a family,” she said.
Although Richmond’s Highland Park still sees problems with gun violence and substance use, Simpson said she has seen the neighbor take a positive turn.
Her family works to bring a big family feel to the neighborhood, doing what they can to aid their neighbors in need of help.
The return of the Simpson’s Market 4th of July cookout is a small sign of hope for Highland Park, Illinois, according to Simpson. Even though communities do not forget pain, they can find ways to pull together.
“We should actually have a time to be able to celebrate life, celebrate Independence, whatever you celebrate the 4th of July for. But just to think you have those people out in the world with ill-intentions that try to ruin that,” Simpson said. “You can’t let anyone try to steal your joy. So even though, yes, it was a tragic time, there will be days when we can celebrate again.”
Simpson’s Market plans to host their cookout once again next year.