Different paths to repair, reopening in Naperville after damage
There is no one way forward for Naperville businesses affected by looting and vandalism Monday night, community leaders said Tuesday.
Instead, there are a variety of paths, still to be forged and figured out by business owners and leaders, city council members and administrators, residents and police.
Some are moving forward by cleaning, some by listening, some by supporting or "helping the helpers," many by repairing and preparing to reopen. Some of the 35 damaged businesses across the downtown and elsewhere in the city are hoping to resume commerce as soon as possible, others are taking a more cautious approach. Some plan to remain closed and boarded up until they can feel assured of more safety and protection.
But many in Naperville are falling back on the community spirit of a town where residents once, 39 years ago, banded together to build a now-iconic riverfront path using volunteer hands.
"Naperville's my home," said Ian Holzhauer, president of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce board. "I believe in Naperville, and I believe that this community will always come up with the right answer in difficult times."
Police said instigators infiltrated the tail end of a peaceful protest late Monday, mixing with people who were marching but meant no harm. Those instigators threw bricks and looted, leaving businesses such as the Bangkok Village restaurant with broken windows and uncertain futures.
Owner Wijid Fay said she couldn't get anyone to help board up the damage at the longtime Thai eatery when she heard about it at 9:45 p.m. Monday, so she was thankful no one stole any money or food. Fay said students from nearby North Central College and college President Troy Hammond helped her clean up Tuesday morning. Now she will wait until conditions calm down to determine her next steps.
"I might take some orders for takeout," said Fay, who has owned the 31-year-old restaurant since 2006. "We have the food that we have in the store. We have to do something."
Naperville Running Company owner Kris Hartner also is awaiting a calmer moment before he returns to his downtown store with all of the 4,000 pairs of shoes and other merchandise he hurriedly relocated Monday afternoon.
After closing at noon, as advised by the city, Hartner rented a box truck, scrambled 20 impromptu volunteers and emptied the Jefferson Avenue store. Rather than boarding up the windows, he removed everything, stored it at an undisclosed location and left the lights on as he returned to his home in the nearby Naperville historic district. The protest turned chaotic, but the business was not harmed.
"That was scary just being a resident," Hartner said. "I've never felt that way before in my home."
West of Hartner's shop, police said, a group attempted to break into the Apple store in a building owned by Steve Rubin. They were unsuccessful, and the store's boarded windows kept vandals out.
Other stores in spaces Rubin owns were not so fortunate, as Eddie Bauer, Gap and Chico's suffered broken windows. Rubin said their next steps include fixing the windows and reopening as soon as possible, under Phase 3 guidelines from the Restore Illinois COVID-19 plan.
"The state allows it," Rubin said. "And that's what we should do."
Naperville Public Library Executive Director Dave Della Terza said the downtown Nichols Library plans to reopen as soon as possible for curbside pickup after fixing 10 broken windows on the building's upper and lower levels.
Della Terza said he was heartened, as were many others cleaning up in the downtown, by the efforts of volunteers who arrived as soon as the city's curfew ended at 6 a.m. They began sweeping in detail, even down to the level of removing scraps of glass from crevices in the decorative brick streetscape, so dogs taking walks wouldn't cut their feet.
"Certainly there's more caring people than not," Rubin said. "That's for sure."
Rosemary Spann, a Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce board member who runs a meeting- and event-planning business from her Naperville home, arrived downtown hoping to help clean, but found the work already done. She still found ways to give support by walking through the downtown, talking with merchants to make sure they were OK.
As an African American woman and a resident of Naperville for more than 25 years, Spann said she has never seen anything like Monday's protest and unrest.
"Right now is the time to listen to people and how they're feeling," Spann said, "and to be a voice, to be a part of the solution."