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Site of closed restaurant keeps immediate neighbors on alert
By Anne Schmitt | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:52 PM

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Originally published Jan. 11, 1994

The presence still lingers. A year after seven people were found murdered at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta, the legacy for the Palatine businesses within view of the restaurant is improved security measures and employees' heightened awareness of their surroundings.

For some, the presence is punctuated by their customers' inquiries about the restaurant's future or the status of the case.

"At some point in everyday I work here, at least one person -sometimes as many as 10 - will ask me what's going on across the street," said Dana Logsdon, manager of Regina's Cafe & More, 189 W. Northwest Hwy.

Located across Northwest Highway from Brown's, the coffee house was two months old when the murders occurred.

Coffee shop talk typically revolves around the issues of the day, but even a year later, discussion at Regina's strays to the murders.

"We've been trying to solve the mystery here, too," Logsdon said.

For the Eagle Food Center next to Brown's, the crime and the drop in business it caused was one of several reasons the corporation chose to close the supermarket Feb. 5, said Herbert Dotterer, vice president and chief financial officer. The Palatine store is one of five that will shut down.

In the wake of the tragedy, some businesses have adopted new security measures or procedures.

Phase II Resale Shop avoids using the back door to the alley. Regina's Cafe replaced its broken security alarm with a more advanced system.

"I think you're more aware of leaving the building when it's dark out," said Linda Sullivan, manager of Edelweiss Delicatessen, 136 W. Northwest Hwy. "Things like this remind you that you have to keep an eye out and be prepared."

"You always make sure you leave with someone else," Sullivan said.

Chris Hunt, an agent at Nationwide Insurance, 157 W. Northwest Hwy., said she doesn't feel any specific threat.

"Probably we still feel that it wasn't a random-type thing. I still feel deep down that somebody meant to do this," Hunt said.

Still, the murders figured into the agency's decision to add a security system and to keep any employee from working at night alone, she said.

On a major traffic corridor, with a number of employees working, and in full view of passing cars and other businesses, the Brown's Chicken shouldn't have been the target of such a crime, said Lorrie Vavak, co-owner of Phase II Resale, 156 W. Northwest Hwy.

"I basically feel that the Brown's Chicken incident broke all the safety rules," Vavak said. "I think it was one of those random things, an opportunity just presented itself."

While the community memory of the crimes lingers as the building stands, businesses said they have not suffered because of the murders.

Customers have continued to be loyal to the businesses, many of them, like Edelweiss Delicatessen, well-established.

Still, the building should be razed or reopened as a different business, said owner Mary Ann Underwood of Top of the Line Hair Design, for the sake of community healing.

"The more it just sits, the more people have a way of remembering it that way," Underwood said. "Time has a way of healing."