Customers rally around Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove after flower theft

  • Continental Restaurant owner Pete Panayiotou and his daughter, Arai Panayiotou, show off the new flowers purchased by customers at the Buffalo Grove eatery. Last week someone stole flower pots from the restaurant's outdoor dining area.

      Continental Restaurant owner Pete Panayiotou and his daughter, Arai Panayiotou, show off the new flowers purchased by customers at the Buffalo Grove eatery. Last week someone stole flower pots from the restaurant's outdoor dining area. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • A new flower arrangement sits near the outdoor eating area at the Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove. After someone stole a selection of flower pots from the restaurant customers stepped in and purchased new ones.

      A new flower arrangement sits near the outdoor eating area at the Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove. After someone stole a selection of flower pots from the restaurant customers stepped in and purchased new ones. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • A woman drove by The Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove early July 5 and stole an expensive display of flowers. The display had been created to welcome back customers after the state-ordered shutdown.

      A woman drove by The Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove early July 5 and stole an expensive display of flowers. The display had been created to welcome back customers after the state-ordered shutdown. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Security camera footage from the Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove shows a person stealing flower pots from the outdoor dining area.

    Security camera footage from the Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove shows a person stealing flower pots from the outdoor dining area. Courtesy of Pete Panayiotou

 
Updated 7/13/2020 8:46 AM

During his 25 years serving customers at the Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove, Pete Panayiotou has earned a reputation for giving back to the community by hosting and sponsoring numerous charity events.

Last week, the tables were turned as the community gave back to him -- making him whole and then some -- after a recent theft.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Panayiotou placed flowers and plants outside the restaurant, 788 S. Buffalo Grove Road, to welcome back customers after the state eased stay-at-home restrictions enacted to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But in the early morning hours of July 5, the flowers vanished. Security footage later revealed that at about 1:45 a.m., a car pulled up to the popular dining spot and a woman wearing a long dress over a short-sleeved shirt got out, grabbed the flowers and drove off.

"Who would get up at two o'clock in the morning ... to come out and steal $150 worth of flowers?" an incredulous Panayiotou asked.

When video of the theft was shared on Facebook, the community response was overwhelming.

"I could not believe it," Panayiotou said. "I got nine new bouquets of flowers way better than the ones I had before."

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He also received at least $90 in cash, and one customer even started a GoFundMe online fundraiser to help Panayiotou. So far it's raised $329.

"It's amazing, the support and the respect we picked up from this community," he said. "Something that was so horrible, it turned out to be so amazing."

One of those who brought flowers to the Continental was Buffalo Grove resident and regular patron Mara Sabath.

Sabath, who rents the Continental banquet room every year for a party with her Jewish motorcycle group, the Chaiway Riders, said she was shocked when she learned of theft.

"It saddens me that someone felt that they could just go and take someone else's property," she said. "Especially Pete, of all people. He's the most generous person you could ever meet. Why would someone take something from him?"

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