For the second night in a row, groups of people broke into and burglarized a string of businesses in Northeast Philadelphia, leaving store owners again cleaning up destruction.
The thieves smashed the doors of about a half-dozen shops early Thursday morning — including three Fine Wine & Good Spirits, a small beauty supply store, and a Walgreens, among others — and fled with their arms and bags filled with goods. Police arrested nine people, bringing the total number of people charged with the mass theft since Tuesday to 61.
The second round of looting prompted city leaders to again condemn the action and call for peace, and City Council members said Thursday they were working to connect business owners with grant opportunities and help with cleanup.
And it came as Eddie Irizarry’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Officer Mark Dial, who shot and killed Irizarry in Kensington last month, and his partner Michael Morris, who was present but did not fire his gun. The first round of looting Tuesday was prompted by a judge’s decision to dismiss all criminal charges against Dial, even as Irizarry’s family called for peace amid pleas for justice.
» READ MORE: Plans for Tuesday’s vandalism were an open secret on social media, and the destruction was documented in videos through the night
Claudia Silmeas, owner of Nat’s Beauty Supply in Mayfair, was shaking and on the verge of tears as she described the extensive damage to her small business Thursday.
“This is my only source of income,” she said. “I’m heartbroken, at a loss of words, nobody is ready for this. No one plans for this to happen.”
And Jay Pross, owner of streetwear shop Art History 101, the designs of which have been worn by Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and Phillies star Bryce Harper, similarly swept up shards of glass. Almost all of his handmade merchandise was stolen off the shelves after thieves smashed the front door with a large brick.
“We’re gonna reopen, we just don’t know when,” he said.
The Thursday vandalism followed a string of similar smash-and-grab crimes across Center City, West, and Northeast Philadelphia Tuesday night that police said were carried out by “criminal opportunists” looking to capitalize on the dismissal of charges against Dial. City officials said the Department of Commerce has met with nearly 50 businesses in impacted areas.
The burglaries began after Irizarry’s family held a peaceful protest outside City Hall to condemn Municipal Court Judge Wendy L. Pew’s decision. Once the gathering ended and the family went home, a rogue group of young people started breaking into Rittenhouse Square stores.
Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford reiterated Thursday that the looters were not connected to the protests.
“Many of these people that were looting probably didn’t even know this young man’s name,” Stanford said in an interview on WURD. “These were not people that were out there protesting for justice. … These were people that looked for an opportunity to steal, looked for an opportunity to destroy our city.”
» READ MORE: Family, supporters of Eddie Irizarry march after judge dismisses charges against Philly officer who killed him
Irizarry’s family has decried the thefts and vandalism. People angry with Pew’s decision should “come to the court instead of tearing down our city,” Irizarry’s aunt Zoraida Garcia said. Bring posters and stand in front of the courthouse, she said, “and let’s do this the right way. Fight together for justice.”
But the outcry didn’t stop some groups in the Northeast.
At Nat’s Beauty Supply, surveillance video showed about 10 people in hoodies, gloves, and surgical masks gathered in the parking lot around 12:45 a.m. Using what appeared to be a bat, they smashed the front door and ducked inside. Within two minutes, dozens of hair extensions, wigs, and products were cleared out.
Silmeas rushed over about 1 a.m. to find the walls and shelves of her most expensive products — items that cost as much as $135 a bundle — nearly bare. She spent much of Thursday cleaning and counting the lost inventory, and estimates she lost “thousands of dollars.” The business, she said, just opened five months ago and is her “one and only, first store.”
“I was working six, seven days a week, mornings … nights, overnight,” she said, “so I could save up to open this store, and now this happened.”
At Art History 101, the thieves threw a large brick through the front door, then fled with almost all of the custom-made hats, hoodies, shirts, and cash register. All they left, store owner Pross said, was the art hanging on the walls.
Pross swept up the shattered glass Thursday afternoon alongside his 4-year-old son. He wasn’t sure how much money he’d lost, but said it would set the business of 13 years back considerably amid a busy time, with the Eagles’ season underway and Phillies’ playoff games beginning next week.
The Fine Wine & Good Spirits on Adams Avenue in Olney was looted for a second night about 1 a.m.
The break-in occurred after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, — which oversees the state’s liquor stores, elected Wednesday to indefinitely close all Philadelphia Fine Wine & Good Spirits locations. At least 18 of its stores were targeted Tuesday night. Most stores reopened at 11 a.m. Thursday, but nine will remain closed to clean up damage and improve security.
The city is taking a handful of steps to direct small businesses to support and to assist in cleanup. City Councilmember Mike Driscoll, whose district includes the Mayfair business corridor, said his office is referring small businesses to The Merchants Fund, which provides grants of up to $20,000 in case of emergencies like unexpected vandalism.
He also sought to assure constituents and business owners that police are making arrests.
”We are not going to ignore,” he said. “We’re not going to look the other way.”
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, whose West Philadelphia district includes the 52nd Street corridor, said at least two businesses — a pharmacy and a general store — were heavily burglarized Tuesday. She said the Streets Department assisted with cleanup, but said the city needs to find ways to financially support the businesses that have endured a “relentless cycle” of unrest since 2020.
”I understand the pain that rippled through our community after the judge’s decision the other day around the Eddie Irizarry case,” she said. “But at the same time, my heart breaks for these small-business owners who have put their lives into these businesses and who we need as a community.”
Tuesday night, 52 people were arrested on burglary and theft charges in connection with the initial string of coordinated break-ins, which started with the Apple Store and Lululemon in Center City before spreading to businesses along Aramingo Avenue in the Northeast and 52nd Street in West Philadelphia.
Dayjia Blackwell, a 21-year-old social media influencer also known as “Meatball,” livestreamed much of the night to her more than 185,000 Instagram followers, documenting how police say the group drove from Center City to Port Richmond and the Roosevelt Mall to carry out break-ins before being arrested on camera. Blackwell was charged Wednesday with two misdemeanors and six felonies, including conspiracy and inciting a riot. She was released on 10% of $25,000 bail, and posted soon after on social media.
“I’ll never get locked up again,” she wrote. “That scared me.”
Staff writers Erin McCarthy and Chris Palmer contributed to this article.
Correction: Police initially overcounted the number of arrests made during a second round of thefts. This article has been updated to reflect the new number.