Aurora business owner: 'I fought to have this store and I wasn't going to just give it up'
After spending the day watching a peaceful protest from her metaphysical shop in downtown Aurora, Maria De Los Angeles was at home Sunday night when she had "a horrible feeing" and felt compelled to go back.
When she returned to her business, I of the Angeles, along East Galena Boulevard, De Los Angeles found a broken window and crowds of young people damaging other nearby businesses.
"I grabbed a baseball bat because I wanted to protect the store," she said.
De Los Angeles and several others stood for hours in front of her store and adjacent shops doing the best they could to stop looters who ultimately would do an estimated $3 million damage to Aurora businesses.
"There were no adults here," she said. "These were children. These were adolescents just ranting and raving."
De Los Angeles yelled at the mob, ordering them to stay away from her business.
"If they didn't see anyone standing here and if they saw something shiny in there," she said, "I thought they would break the window even more. So I stood there."
As she yelled at them to stay away, some in the crowd started shouting back that she had insurance and didn't have to worry.
She told them they were wrong; she had used all her savings to open the small store last August.
What unfolded on Sunday night "was a nightmare," she said. Several businesses, including a jewelry store and a gas station, were looted. One store was destroyed in a fire.
"It was completely chaotic," De Los Angeles said. "But I couldn't leave. I fought to have this store, and I wasn't going to just give it up. I wasn't going to let them take whatever from inside."
At one point, De Los Angeles heard a teenage boy trying to break into the nearby My Daughter's Dress Boutique, which is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable formal dresses, shoes and accessories to girls and women.
When De Los Angeles asked the young man what he was doing, he left.
On Monday morning, Mary Garcia -- the founder and president of the My Daughter's Dress Boutique -- said De Los Angeles saved the shop from being looted.
"They broke all of our windows," Garcia said. "But she didn't let anybody in. She's a trooper."
Garcia said the shop recently moved to Aurora from Oswego and opened for the first time on Friday.
She said it's "devastating" that anyone would damage and attempt to steal from a group that helps underprivileged girls and women in the community.
"We care about this community." Garcia said through tears. "And these businesses up and down here, they're all local. They worked hard for what they have. We don't deserve this. The city doesn't deserve this."
Garcia said the boutique will remain closed, but she plans to reopen eventually.
De Los Angeles, meanwhile, said she doesn't know if she will reopen her shop.
"Last night was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," she said as workers boarded up her business on Monday morning. "I don't know if I can reopen. I'm a little bit afraid of staying here."