Beloved elote vendor shot at, robbed of rent money in South Chicago

Nonprofit SkyArt helps raise $4K for Ruben 'Pepe' Olivares through GoFundMe

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Saturday, September 23, 2023
Beloved elote vendor shot at, robbed of rent money on South Side
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A GoFundMe set up by a SkyArt employee has raised more than $4,000 for beloved elote vendor and Chicago robbery victim Ruben "Pepe" Olivares.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- He's a man who needs no introduction in the city's South Chicago neighborhood.

Ruben Olivares, better known as "Pepe," pushed his cart to the corner of 91st and Houston, where he has served his famous elote for over a decade.

"I'm going to tell you guys, those are some good corn, man," said Jennifer Taylor, a South Chicago resident.

He can't even make it to the corner without getting a hug, and on Friday, he got a much-needed embrace.

"Who could do that? Why would they do that? How could they do that?" one woman said.

Pepe was robbed at gunpoint at his usual corner just after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday while serving his customers.

The gunman took off with Pepe's rent money, over $2,000, and then shot at the beloved vendor.

SEE ALSO | Albany Park community rallies behind vendor after thief caught on camera stealing elote cart

He's OK, but definitely rattled.

Pepe said he has been on this block for more than 10 years, and he's never had a problem with anybody.

The shooting took place outside the nonprofit SkyArt, an organization that provides artistic outlets for young people in the city.

Operations manager Jen Torwudzo-Stroh said a class of kids was about to take a walk when Pepe was attacked.

"It was really intense. It was very intense," Torwudzo-Stroh said. "The kids rush into the studios, we're all down on the ground."

After the attack, Torwudzo-Stroh said SkyArt had to find a way to step up to help Pepe and his family.

"They are just, like, an undeniable part of the lifeblood of this community," Torwudzo-Stroh said.

Alex Galvan, a part-time art therapist at SkyArt, created a GoFundMe to help Pepe collect what he had taken from him. SkyArt helped amplify and contribute to the GoFundMe.

"We shared it out on social media. We shared it with our people, anybody within our family. Like, we gotta do this for Pepe," Torwudzo-Stroh said.

The goal was $2,000, but in less than 24 hours, the community raised over $4,000.

READ MORE | Food truck vendors targeted by armed robbers on Northwest Side

"I want to make 10 times what Pepe lost. I want Pepe to be able to say, like, 'That was awful, but my community knows. My community cares about me,'" Torwudzo-Stroh said.

Pepe told ABC7 that he is very thankful for SkyArt and his community's continued support after the attack.

Most importantly, he said, he's just grateful that he's unharmed and still able to serve his elote.

"This is obviously a blow, but he's gotta continue moving forward. He feels blessed. His family feels blessed. He's grateful for the community," a translator said.

Pepe said despite what he went through on Thursday, he's committed to this community and isn't going anywhere.