As word spread May 31 that looters were smashing doors and windows of North Riverside businesses near Harlem and Cermak, Alex Pina, the owner of Pineapple and Co., a small family-owned liquor store farther west on Cermak Road near Desplaines Avenue, closed his doors.
The looters had concentrated on the big box stores to the east and as the afternoon progressed, Pina thought his business would be spared. But at about 8 p.m., he got a call that looters had smashed their way into the store at 7929 Cermak Road.
Unable to get into the store by smashing out the windows on the east side of the business, looters threw a brick through the glass front door.
“They took most of our expensive bottles, that’s mainly what they took,” said Pina, who opened Pineapple and Co. in late 2018. “They took the register. At this point we don’t know how much they took, because we haven’t done the inventory.”
The interior escaped a whole lot of damage, but all of the windows were broken and because similar scenes played out all over the Chicago area, Pina had to board up the business himself.
As of last Friday, Pina said he had no idea when the glass was going to be replaced. The glass companies are so busy right now, he hadn’t had his calls returned nearly a week after the break-in.
But that hasn’t stopped Pina from reopening. He unlocked the doors on June 2, just two days later, although as of late last week transactions were credit or debit only – the cash register still hadn’t been replaced.
“It is sad,” Pina said. “They shouldn’t be targeting at least the small businesses. We’re struggling as it is. With all this going on, it’s just making it worse.”
To brighten up the business while he waits for the windows to be replaced, Pina reached out on Instagram to a group of graffiti artists in Chicago, who have been painting colorful images and uplifting messages on businesses across the city in the aftermath of the looting.
Organized by Delilah Martinez, owner of Vault Gallerie in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, five graffiti artists – Jeff Pak, Joey D, Bird Milk, Fedz and Blake Jones — went to Pineapple and Co. on June 5 to paint images referencing the liquor store and owner’s name (“Pina” is Spanish for “Pineapple) along with the message “Build Don’t Burn.”
Over the prior six days, they’d been in locations across the city, including the Bloomingdale Trail, Pilsen and Englewood, but this was their first trip outside the city.
“I actually live in Berwyn, so it’s cool it’s spreading out,” said Joey D. “It’s not just Chicago that’s getting hit.
“It’s not even about us at all. There’s something going on, and what can we do?”
Looted businesses slowly reopening
Binny’s Beverage Depot, 7250 Cermak Road, reopened its boarded-up doors on June 5 after being hit by looters on the afternoon of May 31.
According to company spokesman, damage to the North Riverside location was to the entrance area and the front of the store, where shelves for hard liquor are.
“We’re still evaluating total property damage and stolen goods,” said Greg Versch, director of communications for Binny’s in an email last week. “Infrastructure vital to retail operation, such as registers and credit card PIN pads, are still intact, fortunately.”
The front entrance is still boarded up, and a visit to the store June 5 revealed that looters had smashed their way into the cigar room and the room holding the store’s most expensive wines, though many bottles remained untouched.
Another business that reopened last week was E-Z Pawn, whose front windows were smashed on May 31. An employee declined to answer questions, directing any inquiries to the company’s corporate office.
Other stores in the same strip mall, the North Riverside Park Plaza, remained closed as of June 8, including Sally Beauty Supply and Diamond Factory, among others.
Best Buy in the North Riverside Plaza at Harlem and Cermak remained closed to in-store shopping, but by June 8 was open for curbside pickup and Geek Squad-related appointments
Meanwhile, other stores that also had been vandalized May 31 in that shopping center, including Kohl’s, Petco and Burlington all reopened for business over the weekend, despite their entrances still being boarded up.