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Local Column

OLSON: Picking up the pieces at Taxco

Jesus Romero
Jesus Romero

Jesus Romero was still sleeping when he got a call that someone was breaking into his restaurant.

His heart pounding, he searched frantically for his clothes. He got another call, telling him someone had used a truck to break in. He thought someone had used the truck to knock out the window and rob the place.

When Romero made it the three blocks from his home to Taxco Restaurant at 223 W. State St. in Sycamore, he couldn’t believe the scene: There were firefighters and police, and a truck had crashed halfway through one of the restaurant’s windows, leaving a trail of destruction.

Romero, 44, has worked at the restaurant since it opened in downtown Sycamore almost 22 years ago. He said his first reaction was he was glad it happened about 6 a.m. on a Sunday, so no one was hurt.

The restaurant didn’t look as though it was open Friday afternoon – much of the area is cordoned off with yellow tape and construction barricades. But Romero was able to reopen for business around 3 p.m.

The section of the restaurant that the truck destroyed has been stabilized with temporary support braces and walled off from the restaurant’s cantina area.

It’s the part where visitors to downtown Sycamore regularly see Lilia Leon and Cecilia Mendoza making tortillas in the window, just as Lilia’s mother used to make in Mexico.

It was the original part of the restaurant, which has since expanded to include more space.

The relief that no one was injured later gave way to the reality that the restaurant that Romero has worked to build over the past two decades was seriously damaged.

“It was a little emotional to see something that I worked so hard on, it took 22 years to be the way it is now, and see the original building destroyed, it was a little sad,” Romero said.

It also began what will be a long process of planning temporary and permanent repairs, planning health and building code inspections, and accounting for lost inventory.

The sounds of saws and hammers intruded at times on my phone conversation Friday with Romero.

“We’ve been working around the clock to clean up the restaurant as well as everything outside,” Romero said. “We’re building a temporary entrance in the middle of the building, and there’s going to be a partial wall that’s going to have access for people who live upstairs.”

A catastrophic accident such as the one that happened Sunday can be enough to put a restaurateur out of business. It also can hurt employees, who lose out on pay they might have been counting on with almost no notice.

Romero said that won’t be the case for Taxco. His employees clocked in to help with the cleanup – he said he wanted to make sure they could earn some money while the restaurant is closed.

In the past year or so, Romero said he’s spent thousands on remodeling, including a new awning, new façade and new windows, and he plans to put the place back together much as it was.

But it won’t happen overnight. After the crash, the restaurant had to dispose of much of its inventory. Many of the 400 or so bottles of tequila or other alcohol with pour-tops had to be removed, along with napkins, straws, and much of the food.

“We’ve been working around the clock with all my staff, because we have to throw away a lot of food,” Romero said. “We are making everything fresh.”

There’s never a good time to have your business damaged, but the timing couldn’t be worse this time. Not only is the business marking 22 years in operation in downtown Sycamore on Sunday, but this past week also was Romero’s 20th wedding anniversary, he said. He had plans – and canceled them.

But the place means a lot to Romero. He said he eats there daily with his family. He’s been working there since his uncle Efraim Salgado first opened the restaurant in 1992, and he’s been the sole owner for years.

The place means a lot to a lot of people in the community, too. After the crash, Romero said friends, neighbors and loyal customers all offered to help with pickup trucks, with Dumpsters, or in cleaning up the mess. The city inspectors, police, and firefighters have all been very helpful, too, Romero said.

The story was one of the most-viewed pieces online at this week, and the reaction of most people when they read it was probably, “Oh, no.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” Romero said. “I can not think of any better town to raise my family and have a business. We’re surrounded by a beautiful community and great neighbors.”

Text pressure: I don’t know how many sentences I’ve written in newspapers over my career, but it’s a lot.

By my conservative estimate, this is probably the third time I’ve ever used an exclamation point!

It is not necessary, unless something is actually being yelled. Likewise, I am about to break my personal printed emoticon barrier right now : ).

News writers don’t use these kinds of devices, but text-messagers and emailers and social media commenters do all the time.

If you do not use them in those media, it seems like people start to think you’re weird, or angry at them. Oh, if only they understood how the poor exclamation point is being abused these days.

It’s as though if you simply write “thanks,” or “sure,” or “sounds great,” you’re seen as ungrateful or insincere, but if you stick an exclamation point at the end of those sentiments, and maybe follow it up with a whole bunch of emojis (those are the little pictures, usually of weird yellow faces) this somehow makes it clear you mean it, and that you’re a real person with feelings and not some robot.

I mean it. That’s why I wrote it.

As far as I know, no one’s written any kind of style manual on this kind of communication. But you know that when you get a message from someone who says “It was so great to see you this weekend!! I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself with that chainsaw!!!” followed by a bunch of smiley faces and other symbols, it almost seems rude to simply respond “You guys too. Let’s do it again soon.”

You’re kind of supposed to match exclamation points with exclamation points, right?

As one person on Twitter put it, “I hate texting people who don’t use smileys. I feel like I’m texting Kristen Stewart.”

Sigh. I guess maybe I’d better try to improve some of my textual emoting, but I promise not to do it in this space any more.

Thanks for reading!!!

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.  

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