GRAND RAPIDS, Mich - A frustrated business owner is wondering what she should do next after her restaurant was targeted in what she says is the eighth robbery she's had to endure on Grand Rapids' west side.
Maria Martinez owns and operates Tacos El Cunado at the corner of Bridge Street and Pine Avenue.
"What is the next step?" asked Martinez. "I don't know, I don't know what to do. I don't want to close, because this is a small business. It supports four families besides mine, so I don't want to close just like that. I have a lot of bills to pay, and I want to keep going."
One of Martinez's employees, German Jimenez, doesn't want to see the restaurant close either, though he was working as a cook when the robbery happened last Thursday.
"(Maria) is a really great woman," said Jimenez. "She's like family to me, because she's really nice, and she's always been nice to me, and she's tired."
Jimenez described the daytime robbery: "He came in here, grabbed a menu from our menus right there and sat down right here and pretended he was on the phone with his friend or someone asking what they wanted."
Jimenez says the suspect waited for other customers to leave before making his intentions known. "He got up and was still pretending he was on the phone with his friend, asking him if 'You want shrimp?' And we told him we didn't have shrimp, and he was like, 'Okay,' and right when we told him there was no shrimp he went right up to the desk and pulled out a little revolver and just smacked it on the desk, saying, 'Empty out the cash register. Give me everything.'"
It was the cashier who was forced to answer his demands.
"I told the cashier just give him the money so he won't hurt you or do anything," said Jimenez. "So I just told her, 'Hey just give him the cash,' and that's it."
"(The cashier) was really really scared," said Jiminez, who admitted he was scared, too. "It had happened here before, but I was never here during that."
FOX 17 spoke to Martinez back in August after a series of robberies had her wondering what to do with her operation then. "I was very surprised, because I think, you know, seven times is enough," said Martinez on Tuesday. "But I think it's not."
Grand Rapids Police had set up a security camera system at the business after the summer robberies, Martinez tells FOX17, but that system was removed just before the most recent robbery. "Wednesday the detective came and took it out because they had to put it somewhere else," said Martinez. There were no robberies while the camera was there. "Probably this person keeps watching us," she said.
Martinez says Grand Rapids Police are investigating the latest incident. Anyone with information should contact either the police department or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.