Destruction at businesses creates 'stark difference' from reopening scenes
Riding high on Friday and Saturday amid reopenings under Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, some businesses were back to a fresh low by Sunday and Monday, suffering damage or closing early after threats of social unrest.
It's been a roller-coaster ride for small-business owners these past few months, said Marissa Amoni, manager of Aurora Downtown. For businesses hit by vandals and looters in the wake of protests about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, that journey has been particularly bumpy the past few days.
Starting Friday, salons took appointments with precautions, shops opened with capacity limits and restaurants started outdoor dining with masks, fresh meals and fresh optimism. In downtown Aurora, Amoni said, diners enjoyed the deck at Tredwell coffee and the sidewalk outside Ballydoyle pub.
"Everyone was following the guidelines," she said. "There was a really strong showing of people supporting our local businesses."
Then, when a protest Sunday began to disperse, the peaceful rally gave way to chaos, with roughly 30 businesses damaged or looted, three squad cars destroyed by fire, a police officer hurt and 14 people arrested. Businesses hit included a bank, a hair salon that has been in business for roughly 50 years and a karate studio where kids work out.
"It was hard to go from that," Amoni said about the long-awaited reopening, "to the stark difference of civil unrest on Sunday night. It's really tough when you love a community so much to see that happen."
Also affected in Aurora was a downtown jewelry shop damaged one day before its planned Phase 3 reopening, which would have been Monday, and a near-east side bar and liquor store that suffered a break-in, said Karina Garcia, president of the Aurora Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"I'm very disappointed for them because they were barely making it, so now with all this damage, it's going to definitely affect them," Garcia said.
Sherman Jenkins, president of the Quad County African American Chamber of Commerce and an Aurora alderman at large, denounced people spreading "any kind of propaganda that's getting people to do things that are not in best info of themselves or the business community." He said his organization stands with the other chambers in Aurora to support damaged businesses and "keep us Aurora strong."
"We have to be vigilant," Jenkins said. "Let the elements that want to divide and conquer us to let them know that we're not going to let that happen"."
Downers Grove Mayor Bob Barnett in a Facebook post Monday said stores such as Best Buy in his village and Walmart and Target elsewhere were hit by "roaming groups of 30 to 50 people" conducting "smash-and-grab" burglaries.
"The weekend ended yesterday with our village's recommendation that you go home, stay home and that our already struggling businesses close," Barnett said. "That's a real shame and I'm sorry you all had to hear that message."
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said only a strong police presence all day Sunday prevented looters from rampaging through Oakbrook Center. He called organized bands of looters "a criminal virus."
Businesses in Schaumburg's Woodfield Mall and Streets of Woodfield closed early Sunday to prevent damage, as did some businesses in Elmhurst and Algonquin. Closures remained in place Monday at Woodfield and Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont as well as some businesses in Elgin and elsewhere. Police were closing streets and increasing their presence at some locations.
Naperville officials advised downtown businesses to close at noon Monday "out of an abundance of caution" because of "multiple, unconfirmed reports of protests planned throughout the Western suburbs." Shops both in and out of the downtown heeded the call, with the Apple Store downtown boarded up, Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House announcing a closure and Crosstown Pub outside downtown on Ogden Avenue doing the same. The city later declared a state of emergency and set a curfew overnight Monday into Tuesday.
The Downtown Naperville Alliance, in a statement, called 2020 "a year of challenges" and said businesses in the city's commercial core are seeking safety, broadly defined -- from the coronavirus and from other threats.
"We support peaceful expression and look forward to a brighter tomorrow," the group's statement said.
Businesses in other towns were less affected or unaffected by protest-fueled ransackers, authorities and chamber of commerce leaders said. Some opened as planned under coronavirus restrictions Monday, including businesses in Wheaton, Libertyville and Batavia.
Scott Adams, a Libertyville trustee and president and CEO of the GLMV chamber in Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills, said some big-box stores in the region followed corporate orders to close, and some restaurants closed early. Businesses in downtown Libertyville, he said, largely seemed to escape the destruction, but not the concern over what could happen if crowds seek to cause damage.
Some commerce was going on Monday in downtown Aurora, despite the pockets of destruction, said Jessica Linder Gallo, president and CEO of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. But the broken windows and looted storefronts caused another setback for stores.
Downtown businesses were not ready to think about reopening, Amoni said, not with a curfew in effect again for Monday night into Tuesday and with products to replace, windows to reinstall and insurance claims to file.
"We'll think about reopening later," Amoni said. "Right now, we're just trying to clean up and take care of our family here."
• Daily Herald staff writers Lauren Rohr, Elena Ferrarin, Chuck Keeshan, Christopher Placek and Dave Oberhelman contributed to this report.