Rodrick Dantzler’s daughter overcomes tragedy, starts business

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The daughter of a man who killed seven people nine years ago in Grand Rapids has dealt with the stigma of sharing his name.

But she didn’t let it stop her.

Iyonna Dantzler, 25, is the daughter of Rodrick Dantzler, the man who went on a rampage on July 7, 2011 killing seven others before taking his own life.

Iyonna was 15 years old at the time.

“We were just as much as victims as anybody else,” Dantzler told News 8. “I want to bring out a positive thing. I want to make sure that our name is known positive. I want them to know that that day doesn’t define who I am.”

An undated courtesy photo of Iyonna and Rodrick Dantzler.

Now, she’s starting her own business — a retail store called The Box 616. It’s located on Eastern Avenue near Baxter Street in a newly constructed development on the west side of the road. The store primarily focuses on high-end gym shoes that enthusiasts travel great distances to find. The store will also stock clothing apparel and Dantzler hopes to grow a line of clothing featuring The Box branding.

Iyonna reached out to News 8 requesting to share her story, describing her plight in an email to the newsroom this way: “Iyonna Dantzler the daughter of Rodrick Dantzler uses rocky past and new beginnings to open up her very own urban retail store.”

She says she was able to accomplish it all together with her business partner and boyfriend using their own saved money and determination to make a positive impact. Dantzler says she hopes her story inspires others.

“Anything you put your mind to — vision. You can do it,” Dantzler said. “Anything you want out of life, it’s your job to do it.”

Iyonna Dantzler, daughter of a man who went on rampage in 2009, overcomes tragedy and starts a shoe business. (July 8, 2020)

Dantzler said she decided to share her story after hiding from it for years. Some family members have changed their names because of the tragedy, but she has decided to focus more on changing its meaning.

Her father’s last day isn’t how Dantzler remembers the man she loved. She says he suffered from mental illness. Empowering those who need it to seek mental health assistance is part of her mission.

Dantzler said she believes her father would be happy for her success.

“He would probably have been so proud because my dad loved shoes,” she said.

The store will open Saturday — days after the ninth anniversary of a dark day in her past.

Dealing with the anniversary has been difficult for her.

“It used to be really hard for me,” Dantzler said. “I really couldn’t even come outside.”

Now she says she doesn’t shy away from the day, her past or her name but embraces her story to use it for something good.

“I’m proud to be a Dantzler,” she said with a smile.

The Box will open for the first time on Saturday at 11 a.m. The store’s address is 525 Eastern Avenue SE in Grand Rapids.

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