Couple say they will reopen Aurora business that was looted

Just months ago, Elias Akwo and Chaz Nieponski were celebrating the opening of their business, The Crystal House, in downtown Aurora.

The couple's store, which sells crystal merchandise and one-of-a-kind gifts and awards with personalized engravings, had moved from Wheaton to its new location at 59 S. LaSalle St. A grand opening event was held in early December.

But then the shop had to close in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It finally was set to reopen Monday when Akwo and Nieponski learned Sunday night that looters had broken into the business.

"They busted the windows, and they did all kinds of damage," Nieponski said. "They broke crystal and took stuff."

The looters gained entry by smashing two large windows and knocking over a metal display case.

On Monday, Akwo still was trying to determine how many items were destroyed and stolen. The losses, he said, were "considerable."

Still, Nieponski said there were pieces of art that were saved because "we have wonderful neighbors." She said a group of them stood in front of the shop and guarded it until Akwo and Nieponski could arrive from their home in Wheaton.

"I'm sure it would have been a lot worse if they didn't do that," Nieponski said.

She said a neighbor also gave them wood so they could board up the business on Sunday night.

"Otherwise, I don't know what we would have done," Nieponski said. "We have no way of sleeping there, and everything was closed."

Akwo agreed that they were very fortunate. During a news conference on Monday, he thanked everyone who helped them.

"Even though our business was looted and vandalized yesterday, I cannot even express how grateful I am moving into this community," Akwo said.

And he has no intention of leaving.

"Nobody is going to stop us," Akwo said. "We're going to open and continue the business."

"We're staying," Nieponski said. "We love Aurora. The people there are wonderful."

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  The Crystal House in downtown Aurora was boarded up Monday morning from looting Sunday night. Rick West/
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