His business has been vandalized and broken into four times since November — three of those break-ins occurred within the last 10 days, but Nicolas Kynigos, owner of Nicolas & Marie’s Pizza, Pasta and Donair on 27th Street says he’s not angry anymore.
“Obviously I’m frustrated because I’m paying for the damage and that will set me behind on my other bills. But what really concerns me is that this is going to keep happening, and not just to me — it’s happening all over the city,” he said.
“We’re the working class — the backbone of the economy and we’re being terrorized in a way. There are business owners who have been forced to put bars on their windows so people can’t break them. I don’t want to live like that.”
In less than one year, Kynigos has had his cash register taken twice and the tip jar swiped. Each time large rocks were used to shatter his door or front window — which is currently boarded up. The current damage is estimated to be approximately $5,000.
And though he made headlines earlier this week for offering the person or people who caused the damage an opportunity to work it off at his restaurant, no one has come forward to take him up on his offer.
He said this is indicative of a bigger issue in Vernon.
“The people who broke in didn’t take anything besides cash. I think they took the register so they could get in and get out quick, which tells me they were looking for money to buy drugs in this case. But that isn’t always why people end up desperate enough to steal,” he said.
“There are lots of reasons people end up on the street.”
Kynigos feels Vernon can mitigate some thefts if business owners, residents, service groups and local law enforcement band together to create “safe spaces.”
“After all this happened it got me thinking, what if instead of living in fear, we gave these people a place to work and get paid and feel self-worth? There are people living out on the street freezing and begging for a dollar, so let’s clean it up — but in a human way and not look down on the poor because anybody could land there. We need to come together as a community to help these people because if we don’t do something, the problem is going to get a lot worse.”
In regard to his own financial struggles in the wake of the break-ins, Kynigos said there has been an outpouring of support from residents, customers and his peers in the business community.
“My landlord, Raj Jaswal, who owns the building my restaurant is in could have kicked me out for being late with the rent because of all this. Instead he allowed me to make an arrangement for the rent and donated $2,000 worth of cameras for the restaurant to help with security.”
He also wants to recognize Midtown Bistro for spearheading a fundraising campaign, Universal Hair for donating a cash register to him after his was stolen, Alarmtel Security & Telephone Inc. and anyone who donated or purchased products from his restaurant.