Scraping off the vinyl Love Is All You Knead signs, downtown Gainesville business owners banned together to erase all traces of the shop’s former owner, Endrick Torres, from Main Street Market this week.
“I’m extremely proud of how collectively our community acted,” LaSha Ackerman, owner of Waldorf & Wonder in Main Street Market said. “It was almost instantaneous that we found out about it and he was arrested very shortly.”
Gainesville Police arrested Torres, former owner of the ice cream and doughnut shop, on Tuesday, June 18. Torres was charged with first-degree forgery and violation of the Georgia sex offender law.
Police said Torres, a sex offender who was previously convicted of groping young girls in New York, used a false name on his business license application, and his shop was located within 1,000 feet of Waldorf & Wonder, which welcomes children through its doors on a weekly basis.
When Ackerman, heard about Torres’ criminal history, she kept Waldorf & Wonder closed.
“To my knowledge he never had any one-on-one contact with my kids or anyone else’s kids in Gainesville,” Ackerman said. “It’s very scary to me that he chose the business that he did, instead of living a quiet life in a field focused to adults.”
The day after Torres was arrested, Ackerman started her classes back up. To her amazement, she had a packed room of children. Ackerman said she expected Torres’ exposure would hurt her business.
“Honestly, the air has been so heavy the past couple of days,” she said. “It was so joyful to have a sense of normalcy back and to have a big group of kids doing yoga.”
On Friday, June 21, the market was reintroduced to the flavor of ice cream. Ackerman held an evening ice cream party for children at Waldorf & Wonder, inviting kids to create their ultimate sundae.
Yet again, parents displayed their loyalty to Ackerman and the market.
Paresh Patel, owner of Sweet Magnolias Café and Bakery, said he can assure people that “it’s now definitely safe in the market.”
In addition to the security cameras that were previously installed at Main Street Market, Ackerman is in the process of placing cameras inside Waldorf & Wonder. She said parents will be able to remotely keep an eye on their kids through an app.
Even before the cameras, Ackerman has taken precautions with the children who visit her business. She never lets anyone who’s not a child’s parent pick them up, unless an arrangement has been previously made.
Today, little evidence of Torres’ doughnut and ice cream shop remains in the square. Ackerman hopes that people will continue visiting Main Street Market, and not let what happened taint their opinions of the shopping center’s current businesses.
“The world is no more or less dangerous today than it was yesterday,” Ackerman said. “There are still dangerous people out there that we don’t know about. My advice to parents is that just because this one has been caught, you can’t be lax about safety.”