Days after Chicago was rocked by looting, some small retailers have reopened but are trying to safeguard against similar incidents in the future.
Following a police incident Sunday afternoon, 200-plus big brand and designer stores faced “millions of dollars worth of” stolen merchandise and property damage. Lesser-known small businesses were also impacted.
Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, a group that represents 20,000 locations statewide, said that some stores had not yet reopened after Chicago’s first round of looting in late May and early June. “A lot of these folks that were hit the first time were hit again. Some had just got parts of their stores reopened and now this. Frankly, there is a lot of frustration and anger that they are exposed to unlawfulness. I am fielding a lot of calls from retailers about protecting what they built.” she said. “A lot of the focus has been on large retailers and it should be. They’ve been hit early and often. But a lot of the folks that got hit were small businesses.”
In addition, retailers generally cannot count on insurance policies to cover all of their losses, and their insurance rates will increase due to being located in an area that is costly to insure. “Small business owners are paying and they’re tired.“ Dawood said.
Some of IRMA‘s members across the city, not just in the downtown area, had windows broken and/or were looted with clothing, electronics and convenience stores being the hardest hit. Firstly, IRMA is asking impacted retailers to cooperate with the Chicago police by sharing video footage or any information about the incident. “Give that to police on a proactive basis. We have to work together in order to try to stop these things from happening again.” Dawood said, adding that such information could allow police officers to pursue assailants and potentially recover some of what was lost.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Police Department set up a video portal to encourage the public to help identify some of the suspects involved with the rampant theft and property damage earlier in the week. As of Thursday afternoon, two videos had been posted and additional ones were expected to be added, a CPD spokeswoman said. She declined to estimate how many tips had been provided thus far.
Detectives assigned to CPD’s newly-formed Looting Task Force are “continuing to comb through hours of surveillance footage to identify and arrest additional offenders.“ a CPD spokesperson said Friday.
While Chicago-area retailers may have already been looking into buying drop-down gates and shatterproof windows, those are of greater necessity now especially to stores located outside of the city’s central business district that aren’t used to being targets.
After having all of the merchandise in its downtown store stolen Monday, Londo Mondo, a two-store and online business, reopened Thursday, thanks to the arrival of fall merchandise Tuesday. Still fearful that looting could happen again, co-owners Carrie and Ken Londe said small business owners have not had any reassurance from a police officer, alderman or “somebody in a leadership position.”
Having lost $60,000 worth of merchandise and without “optimal insurance,” the couple is wary of more looting. He said, “We can’t afford to hire a private security guard. I’m not sure that anyone would do that job anyway. We can’t afford gated windows. There’s not much we can do for the overnight hours, which is why I don’t sleep well.”
In business for nearly 35 years, Ken Londe said, “It used to be that windows were all you needed.”
Noting how her husband stood guard in front of their store Monday to try to deter further looting, Carrie Londe said, “He had to defend our store. Trust me, he didn’t want to be a hero. It was a matter of if everything was cleaned out, that’s it. That’s our livelihood.“
Paul Young Fine Jewelers’ owner Paul Cha said $100,000 is a cautious estimate of his losses. With the help of 20 people, Cha cleaned up his store Monday morning and reopened Tuesday. “Even though the city’s looting was disappointing, there are still many good people. That’s the whole reason I’m trying to stay in business.” he said.
Many customers have stopped by in the past few days to pick up their repairs and to purchase diamonds and other items to support Cha. In business for 38 years, he said, “Right now everybody has anger for everything. That’s a shame. Chicago is a beautiful city. All the neighbors, foreigners, visitors and tourists have been saying beautiful things about Chicago. But now bad words spread faster. Everybody is going to be scared. That’s going to make people do a U-turn and bypass Chicago. We are ruining our city ourselves.”