'We're here for you': Community rallies behind Highland Park businesses after 4th of July tragedy

'There's bodies on the floor': Owners recount chaos after shots fired, parade-goers sheltering inside their businesses

Eric Horng Image
Monday, July 3, 2023
Community rallies behind Highland Park businesses after mass shooting
A community has rallied behind local businesses after the deadly 4th of July Highland Park shooting.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- On a warm summer day, downtown Highland Park was bustling.

Shoppers and diners came to the place where this community changed forever.

"There's no manual after you have a shooting at a parade. What do you do in a business? You know, there's nothing to know what to do," said Country Kitchen Manager Rubina Iliopoulos.

Country Kitchen has been a downtown fixture for 45 years. Iliopoulos recounted how parade-goers sheltered in businesses.

"People saying that there's gunshots, 'I heard gunshots. There were, there's bodies on the floor,'" Iliopoulos said.

SEE ALSO | How Highland Park High School tackles trauma from deadly 4th of July parade shooting

Around the corner, at Lynfred Winery, dozens rushed inside, crowding into bathrooms, an office, and the basement.

"Just waving people through, on my end. And then, I'm seeing people basically grabbing their children for dear life," said Matt Phillips with Lynfred Winery.

Almost a year later, the emotions ae still raw.

After the tragedy, several downtown businesses near the epicenter of the shooting were forced to close for a week as police and the FBI conducted their investigation. When they reopened, few knew what to expect.

Arden Edelcup is the former owner of Ross's, the store whose rooftop the gunman allegedly used.

"We were very concerned, and this is when I'm going to get emotional, because we had lines out the door," Edelcup said. "And people were coming in, saying, 'We don't care.' They were just grabbing anything to buy. They did not care. Kind of like them saying, 'No, you're not going to get us.'" (3) (7.5)

Phillips said people showed up to support the winery as well.

READ MORE | Highland Park parade shooting victims honored with prayer, oak tree planting nearly 1 year later

"I had people coming through saying, 'We don't know what else to do, so we're going and shopping at these local businesses just to let you know that we're here for you,'" Phillips said.

At Lynfred Winery, in the same small office where children hid in fear, there are now notes of gratitude that are helping write the next chapter.

Some businesses have struggled, but federal loans and a city grant program have offered assistance.

At Ross's, now in its 58th year, the store was recently sold to a new family.

"It wasn't about the products. It wasn't about the building. It was about the community of Highland Park," said Regina Chesney, the new owner of Ross's.

That sense of togetherness has helped lift the city out of tragedy.