LINCOLN SQUARE — Ravenswood neighbors have rallied around Eduard “Ed” Peci several times in the last 10 years, supporting the former Windy City Liquors owner and his family through robberies and devastating loss.
Community members again are galvanizing to help Peci, 70, who was attacked outside the liquor store at 4959 N. Damen Ave. last week, according to family, friends and police. A GoFundMe started by a neighbor hopes to raise $20,000 for Peci, who is still hospitalized.
Peci, who owned the liquor store and has since worked as a cashier there, was outside the store around 10:30 p.m. Saturday when he got into an argument with a man, police said. The man punched Peci in the face and knocked him to the ground before running east down Argyle Street, police said.
Peci was taken to Swedish Hospital. No arrests have been made and detectives are investigating.
“Every time I come here I’ll spend a good 10 minutes talking with him just because he’s a nice guy,” neighbor Andre Hernandez said. “I’m angry and it’s just f***** up. He’s an old guy. I don’t understand people.”
A Windy City employee told Block Club the hard drive for the liquor store’s security cameras didn’t record the attack due to technical issues.
The city also has a surveillance camera attached to a light pole across the street from the business in view of where the attack happened. Police did not answer questions about what footage that camera may have recorded.
The Pecis are originally from Albania and moved to Chicago in 2006, according to a Tribune story. Ed Peci opened Windy City Liquors about two years later.
“He’s just a very nice guy. Doesn’t really ever get angry,” said Peci’s cousin, who asked his name not be used. “He’s very calm and expresses himself in a calm collected way. He cares about his family.”
Windy City was robbed in 2011, where Peci also was injured, according to the Tribune. Five days later, Peci’s 24-year-old son drowned in Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake, according to the Tribune. The store also was robbed in 2016.
Peci sold the family business after his son died to retire, Windy City co-owner Kishorekumar Gunda said. Gunda and his business partners asked Peci if he wanted to work shifts behind the register to keep busy, Gunda said.
“It’s a job he really enjoys doing and he’s been my employee there for about a decade now,” Gunda said. “He’s such a hard working person, a good person and a gentle man. What the heck are you doing hurting an old man who is 70 years old with a wife? It’s a stupid, unnecessary thing.”
Neighbors who frequent the store kitty corner to Winnemac Park said they can always find Peci behind the counter ready to ring up their purchases.
“He’s just a good guy and he’s always been here,” neighbor Patrick Flahergy said. “You can’t miss him with his big head of white hair.”
Neighbor Courtney Hirsch said she and her boyfriend got to know Peci since moving into the neighborhood more than two years ago. They see him nearly every day when they shop at Windy City, she said.
“He’s a very stoic guy but once you get to know him he’s really sweet,” Hirsch said. “For example, the day the attack happened he gave my boyfriend a bag of candy while we were just catching up with each other.”
Hirsch’s boyfriend had stopped by the store this week and learned that Peci’s wife, who was in Albania visiting her father, had called the liquor store looking for her husband after he didn’t answer her text messages, Hirsch and Pula said.
“That’s how the family found out about the attack. Then two of his cousins flew in and I actually gave them his glasses that I had found smashed on the sidewalk,” Hirsch said.
With permission from his family, Hirsch launched the GoFundMe Tuesday to help cover his medical bills.
Benny Flores, who delivers for Louis Glunz Beer Inc., said he was shocked when he heard why Peci wasn’t at his usual spot behind the register Wednesday. He’s known Peci for more than a decade, describing him as “kind hearted” and always offering a free water or soda after Flores finishes unloading cases of beer at Windy City.
Flores said Peci fosters sense of community for kids in the neighborhood and their parents who always feel welcome when they drop by the business for a snack.
“I can’t believe somebody would do something to him like that. It just breaks my heart, man,” Flores said. “But I’m not surprised the community wants to give back to help him.”
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