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Bad Seed: Old Brooklyn business owner's free fruit and veggie stand spoiled by thief

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Posted at 5:28 PM, Jun 30, 2022

CLEVELAND — For a well-known barber and small business owner in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood, someone’s rotten act won’t spoil his charitable efforts.

Since he founded his barber shop, Legoheadz Barber Saloon, several years ago, Marlon Brown has been actively involved in grassroots community initiatives, including coat drives in the fall and winter months as well as a free food pantry in the spring and summer. The neighborhood-supported efforts come without strings attached; donated food and clothing are available to anyone that needs it and at any time.

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“Anybody that knows me knows that I will give my last dollar to help somebody in this neighborhood. I’ve done it before,” Brown said. “I’ve needed that help before. I’m in a blessed place right now but I made a promise that if I got where I wanted to be, I would always give back. This neighborhood has made that easy.”

In late May, a community member provided yet another example of that generosity by donating a large but humble fruit and vegetable stand in order for Brown to better display the free food pantry outside his storefront. The stand itself wasn’t anything luxurious, nor could it have been worth more than a couple of hundred bucks brand new.

However, because of the simple fact that the stand had been donated out of the goodness of someone’s heart, Brown became attached to it.

“It was a gift. It wasn’t anything major,” Brown said. “But the fact that someone in the neighborhood thought enough about the shop to help me do something that I’m trying to do, it’s got more sentimental value than anything else.”

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As he finished his last cut and closed his shop on Wednesday, Brown went down the street to buy enough produce to make sure plenty would be available throughout the night. When he drove by the shop later Wednesday night, the stand was still outside. When he arrived Thursday morning, however, all of the produce and the stand were gone.

“I would have preferred that [the theif] took everything but just leave the stand, you know?” Brown said. “It’s a first-world problem. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s more of the principal. Help me, help you. Don’t make helping you more difficult.”

It is unclear what time the fruit stand was stolen or by whom; Brown said he will be checking with the businesses that border his shop. The incident, he said, doesn’t reflect the neighborhood that he knows and loves.

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“I don’t want anyone to get a bad thought about the neighborhood. The neighborhood is phenomenal. It’s because of the neighborhood that I have the fruit stand,” Brown said. “It’s because of the phenomenal people around here that I can sustain the free pantry. Unfortunately, you will always have a bad seed somewhere.”

The theft of the fruit stand and all of the donated produce is disappointing, Brown said, but it will not be a deterrent. The free food pantry will be making a comeback as soon as he can run to the grocery store.

“My mother always told me if you’re going to give, give indiscriminately,” Brown said. “I’m not going to let somebody else’s actions dictate mine.”