AVONDALE — At least six businesses in Avondale and Logan Square have been broken into in recent weeks, causing thousands of dollars in damage and added stress for business owners struggling through an already slow season.
Three people entered the Deep Red Wine Merchant at 2901 N. Milwaukee Ave., Friday morning. According to surveillance footage, the men removed an empty register, took a work phone and smashed the front door, which will cost several thousand dollars to replace, owner Dave Thompson said.
“For small businesses, it’s a big hit,” Thompson said. “Obviously, it’s very disturbing; I am also worried about the safety of people in the neighborhood.”
According to the owners, Harding Tavern, 2732 N. Milwaukee Ave. and Pan Artesanal, 3724 W. Fullerton Ave., was burglarized Jan. 31. This is the third time Pan Artesanal has been broken into since August, said co-owner Lizette Espinoza.
Surveillance footage shared on Pan Artesanal’s Instagram shows someone in a light-colored hoodie approaching the front window, beating and kicking it. Other footage shows the man walking inside the business and around the counter, as well as separate video of the missing cash register and broken windshield.
El Habanero, 3300 W. Fullerton Ave., was also hit Monday, and Brew Brew Coffee and Tea, 3832 W. Diversey Ave., was robbed Jan. 8 for the second time in less than three months.
Other series of overnight breaks On Jan. 18, he hit three businesses in the district, police said: Wherewolf Coffee, 1765 N. Elston Ave.; Mables Tables, 1655 W. Cortland St.; and AM Supermarket, 2456 N. California Ave.
In those burglaries, police said two to five men or boys used a crowbar or shovel to break a front or side glass door, then stole property and damaged the store’s interior. Police said they were wearing light-colored jackets, backpacks, face masks and light-colored sweatpants.
Surveillance video shared with the Block Club shows that someone broke into Rooted Living, 2918 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Jan. 31. also tried to enter the address. He broke the doorbell.
Business owners told the Block Club that they have identified the suspect, but department officials would not confirm that or say if anyone has been arrested in connection with the thefts.
Business owners described seeing someone wearing similar clothing to Pan Artesanal in the footage of the thefts that took place at their store on the same night.
For the sisters and owners of Pan Artesanal, the third intervention was upsetting and mentally draining, they said.
“They don’t know how much damage they’ve done, not just financially, but emotionally, because ‘Again?’ like,” said Lizette Espinoza.
The most recent theft caused more than $3,000 in damage, and the owners temporarily closed the shop to recover and prepare a new menu, Espinoza said. He’s pleased detectives are taking the case more seriously than last year, he said.
This is the second time the business has closed since the burglary, but the sisters won’t let the incident hold them back, Espinoza said.
The bakery reopens this weekend with 10 new pastries and three types of tamales, and the sisters hope it can be a profitable weekend to pay for the money needed to replace the register, damaged tables and windows, Espinoza said.
“We are very grateful for the customers; Without our customers, my sister and I wouldn’t have the energy to keep going,” she said.
Business owners and neighbors said they need more support from the city to end the thefts. Some want to see more police presence, while others have given up money to avoid more thefts.
As burglaries and thefts increase elsewhere in the city, business owners may feel alone in protecting their shops with alarms, cameras and other security measures, Thompson said.
“We can do as much as we can, but we each get tax revenue at the same time, so we have to get something for it,” Thompson said.
Esam Hani, who owns The Harding Tavern, supports more nighttime police patrols on busy lanes like Milwaukee Avenue. He also wants to see more consequences for youth offenders, he said.
“If they are minors, the parents should be responsible,” Hani said. “I’m worried about my team, my liquor store and my other businesses.”
The owners of Pan Artesanal considered getting large black bars to deter some businesses from burglarizing them, but installation requires a permit and the landlord’s permission, which is costly. That’s not a permanent solution, and it’s not inviting, Espinoza said.
“It has to start with just one alderman and it has to go to the City Council because this is not acceptable,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said the owners plan to replace the store’s front glass with bulletproof windows, which were installed outside the business after the last burglary and have proven to be worth the money.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) visited several affected businesses and said his office is working with police to potentially install cameras near Fullerton and Milwaukee avenues. He’s also trying to install lighting along business corridors to deter crime and increase visibility, he said.
Alderman said increased police presence at night depends on staffing in the local police district and other crimes reported in the community.
A police spokesman declined to say whether patrols would be added to the area, saying specific deployments or patrol strategies have not been made public.
Lynn Fosbender, owner of Rooted Living in Avondale, said area business owners are coming together to support each other and hopefully help police determine who is responsible.
Fosbender helped gather footage from neighbors during the burglary at Deep Red Wine Merchant and connected all of the business owners who were shot to the same detective.
“It’s an odd situation to have this happen, but there’s a sense of community among businesses that have been hit or are at risk of being hit,” Fosbender said. “We look out for each other and lean on each other.”
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