Thursday, April 29, 2021

Nicky's 'Overwhelmed' By Neighbors' Support

‘Incredible’ response after robbery

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Southwest Siders may or may not be able to catch the bandit
who recently robbed a local fast-food restaurant, but they responded in a way that touched the heart of the business’ owner.

Upon learning that Nicky’s at Archer and Austin was robbed at gunpoint, dozens of local men, women and teens responded by flooding the venerable hot dog stand with business.

“Yeah, it’s been incredible,” said owner Angelo Lilas of the sudden surge in business. “We’re getting waves of regular customers, as well as customers we haven’t seen in a while and even people who have never been here. Many are stopping in to say they’re sorry about what happened, as they order food for themselves and their families.”

An image of the bandit, from a surveillance camera.

What triggered the community response was a clip from a video surveillance camera that showed a man with a gun robbing Nicky’s on Monday, April 26. The robber, who initially posed as a customer and ordered food, was in the restaurant for a total of about 60 seconds. About 45 seconds into his visit, he pulled a gun and demanded money. Staff at Nicky’s complied, and the robber walked out quickly.

He appeared to be a Hispanic man about 5-foot-10, medium build, wearing a red baseball cap, gray-and-black jacket and black pants, and white gym shoes with blue or black accents.

Those with useful information to share about the crime are encouraged to call CPD Area 1 detectives at (312) 747-8380.

News of the robbery traveled quickly in the neighborhood. While some expressed anger over the crime, others moved past that and suggested that everyone respond in a positive manner.

“Look, we’re probably not going to catch this guy who robbed Nicky’s, but we can all head over there with cash in hand and order food,” said Julie McIntyre.

Many took the cue.

“I’ve been going to Nicky’s since 1997, but I haven’t been there in a while,” said Dan Sotillo. “Well, that changes today. I’m going over there and ordering food for my family.”

Jeff Jimenez said that his family members “have never been to Nicky’s before. But that’s going to be different. We won’t put up with this. We can’t have these criminals set the tone for the neighborhood.”

Terry Lynn Prohaska said she hasn’t been to Nicky’s “since I was a teenager in high school. I’m going to order big babies and fries for all my co-workers.”

Lilas said the community response “has been tremendous. Even before I told anyone [about the robbery], I was getting phone calls from people, asking if we’re OK.”

Nicky’s has been at Archer and Austin since 1967. In 1978,
Jim and Angelo Lilas drop their masks to pose for a photo.
Lilas’ father, Jim, bought the restaurant. About 10 years ago, he sold it to his son, Angelo.

Angelo grew up in the business. He has worked there since about age 8, when his job was to dispense soft drinks for customers.

He graduated from St. Laurence High School in 1994. A number of his classmates were also his customers.

“[In the robbery], we lost only a few hundred dollars. I can replace that,” Lilas said. “My concern was about the safety of my employees and my customers. I mean, it was crazy. It was scary. This guy had a gun and I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

When the robbery occurred, there was one other customer in the lobby, as well as Lilas and four employees behind the counter or in the back room.

“But the response we have seen from the neighborhood has been overwhelming,” he concluded. “We’ve always known that Garfield Ridge is a good place to do business. The response from the neighbors just re-affirms that.”

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