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Owner of looted sneakers store surveys post-Lakers-victory damage

June 15, 2009 | 12:12 pm

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At the Holy Grail, a vintage sneakers store around the block from Staples Center, owner Richard Torres appeared exhausted from staying up all night after revelers ransacked his shop after the Lakers' victory.

Torres was watching the Lakers' game Sunday night at his father’s house in Corona when he saw images of the civil unrest on the TV news. He recognized the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Flower Street, where his store is located. Torres and his girlfriend, who works as the manager, jumped into their car and headed downtown.

About fifteen minutes later, their security company called, saying the store alarm had been triggered. When they arrived less than an hour after the game had ended, shoe boxes were scattered all over the block. Some shoes had been lit on fire and thrown down the street.

Torres and his girlfriend entered through the back door and saw the storage room all but empty. Fewer than 20 pairs of shoes were left out of the 800 pairs they had in stock. The floor was littered with receipts, price tags, tissue paper and crumpled-up shoe boxes.

Torres’ eyes grew teary at the sight. Neighbors told them the revelers had gone to the back of the store, and pulled and pulled at the white metal door until it broke open, all the while chanting: “We want shoes, we want shoes.” Glass display cases had been shattered. Two computers, cash, sunglasses and hats were also looted.

“It makes me not want to be a basketball fan,” Torres said, adding that he opened the store near the Staples Center in November 2007 because he was a fan and thought the post-game crowd would be the right clientele for his consignment sneakers.

He hand-picked a dark gray for the interior, lined the walls with plastic replicas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House design and put up lighting so his shoes would be visible even when the store was closed. He tried to be at the shop after Lakers' games and had employees spin records on DJ equipment in the back.

Torres said he regrets not having been at the store Sunday night but knows he could have been hurt if he had been there.

“I thought it would be a whole different reaction” to the Lakers’ victory, he said. “Usually after the games we get a real positive response.”

Torres estimated his loss at $140,000. He expected his insurance would cover it but noted that some of the vintage sneakers were irreplaceable. He said he hopes to reopen the Holy Grail by the end of the week.

This morning, police arrested a man and a woman who live in a loft in the building after finding six boxes of shoes in their apartment.

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Richard Torres, owner of the Holy Grail, stands outside his boarded-up vintage sneakers store Monday morning. Looters left behind fewer than 20 pairs of shoes out of the 800 pairs in stock. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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