For nine years William Escobar and his brother Hugo have owned What's Cooking on Main Street in New Milford. For nine years, they have arrived to work every morning greeted by the friendly and familiar faces of local people who regularly frequent their restaurant.
Until Sunday morning when they were greeted by a smashed front door and the discovery that money had been stolen.
"It was a regular customer who was driving by the restaurant at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning who first noticed that the door was smashed open and called New Milford Police," Escobar told Patch.
"The customer was passing by just as my brother Hugo was coming in to open the store," he said.
Escobar reported that burglars gained access to the restaurant by smashing all of the glass out of the front door, taking $100 in cash from the register along with approximately $200 in coins that was kept on a counter below the register.
When asked what time he thought the burglary occurred, he said that it had to be sometime after midnight on Sunday because Lieto Italia Ristorante cleans up between midnight and 1 a.m. and "there are people inside."
Escobar said that the landlord, who lives in an apartment upstairs from the restaurant, heard a loud bang sometime after 1 a.m. but because of the weather did not think it was anything.
"I am very surprised that this happened in a town like New Milford," Escobar said. "It's a small place where everyone knows each other."
Escobar said that he does not have any type of security alarms or cameras because he never considered that he would need them. "My place is a local place where I know everyone who comes through the door."
Describing What's Cooking as "a small community place," Escobar said that he never thought about security because a large part of his clientele consists of members of the local police force and fire departments, as well as local area residents from New Milford, River Edge and Oradell.
"I always felt protected," he said. "For nine years, I never had a reason to worry."
Escobar said that the burglary is an eye-opener not only for him, but for all small business owners. "It's important for everyone like me to know that it's not just bigger businesses that are being targeted."
However, despite having no securable front door, business went on as usual with Escobar behind the counter smiling and talking to all the customers that filled What's Cooking on a Sunday afternoon.
Said one family from River Edge who count themselves among Escobar's regular customers, "Look at him. Nothing can get him down. That's why we love this place. It's his unbreakable spirit that keeps us coming back."