LINCOLN SQUARE — As the owner and sole employee of Alapash Home & Terrariums on West Montrose Avenue, Marco Chavarry always had safety in the back of his mind.
After a pair of recent robberies by a man who targeted small businesses in Lincoln Square, Chavarry is no longer debating whether to buy a security system.
"My hesitation is gone. They're coming tomorrow to install it," he said.
Chavarry's shop is located two doors down from Second Journey Resale, which was robbed on Sunday, just days after the same culprit stole $80 from Soggy Paws 2 on West Leland Avenue.
"I think probably the first time people thought it was isolated," Chavarry said. "The second was a wake-up call."
How to prevent a robbery and what to do in the event of such an emergency will be the topic of a crime prevention seminar for local business owners, scheduled for April 11 and hosted by the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. Sgt. Jason Clark of the Town Hall Police District will be in attendance to address concerns.
Police said no weapon was reported being used in either robbery, but in both instances employees were physically assaulted by the thief and required medical attention.
The robber — described as a black man 35 to 45 years old, 5-feet 11-inches to 6-feet 2-inches tall and weighing 240 to 250 pounds — is still at large.
Though word has spread throughout the community about the robberies, residents shouldn't assume the attention will deter the thief from returning to the scene of the crime, police said.
"Just because it's been publicized doesn't mean that guy's not going to come back to the same area," a Chicago Police Department spokesman said. "There's no rhyme or reason."
Second Journey, at 1940 W. Montrose Ave., remained closed Wednesday, with a notice that the shop would reopen Thursday.
At Soggy Paws, 2316 W. Leland Ave., it was business as usual, with employee Emily Frank's dog Bristow guarding the entrance to the pet store.
"I live in the neighborhood. It's been fairly shocking, especially being alone and a woman," she said.
"Our beat cop is a regular [customer]. He brings his dog here. He was in this morning checking on me."
The shop, given its high visibility near the bustling Western "L" Brown Lane station, struck Frank as an improbable target.
"I think to find logic or reason would make us crazy," she said. "Living in fear of it happening again would make it difficult to move forward."
While Soggy Paws 2 is taking additional security precautions, Frank noted that police told her "you can't ever really be totally prepared."
One of the simplest measures would be to have shops manned by two employees instead of one, a solution that's impractical for most small business operators, said Tracy Kellner, of Provenance Food and Wine, 2312 W. Leland Ave.
"What small business doesn't have one person working during the day? I can't staff two people," she said.
The store is equipped with a panic button and she holds regular security meetings with her employees, advising them in the event of a robbery to protect themselves first instead of the cash register or merchandise.
"I'm like, 'Just give them what they want.' I'd rather be out 400 bucks than have an employee in the hospital," she said.
Kellner, who owns a second Provenance outpost in Logan Square, said she experiences more "suspicious activity" in Lincoln Square, from counterfeit bills that have circulated among shops in the neighborhood to petty theft that tends to occur during summer festival season.
"People become complacent," she said. "I feel safe leaving here at 9:30 at night. But it's still the city."