Most of the shoppers who visited previously closed Central Texas Marketplace stores such as JoAnn Fabric & Craft, Cabela’s Outpost and World Market on Wednesday said they did so without concern for their safety, despite the raging gunbattle between rival biker gangs and peace officers that took place nearby Sunday.
“There are still enough police out here to make me feel safe, and I don’t think bikers would be hanging around JoAnn’s,” said Cara Callaway, 36, of Whitney, who was shopping at the craft store about 1 p.m. Wednesday.
That section of Central Texas Marketplace bookended by Cabela’s and the Best Buy electronics store had remained closed since shortly after the bloody, noon-hour confrontation at the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday that resulted in nine deaths and more than 170 arrests.
Waco police, who considered the strip a crime scene because of its proximity to Twin Peaks, removed barricades at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, and the stores opened several hours later.
“I probably would not have come out here before today,” Callaway said Wednesday. “But I feel OK with things now.”
“I was ready for them to open. I need to spend some money,” said Edmond Trejo, 26, of Waco, walking briskly toward previously shuttered Cavender’s Boot City.
Trejo said he always buys his boots at Cavender’s, and with the Waco location closed for a time, he was mulling a drive to Temple.
He said he felt safe, in part, because of local law enforcement officers and their response to a situation that could have turned much more deadly.
“Kudos to them,” said the U.S. Navy veteran. “I know they don’t have an easy job.”
Brittney Bridger, a manager at Cavender’s, said traffic “has been pretty much what it always is on a Wednesday.”
Customers inside the Don Carlos Mexican restaurant had a front-row seat to the chaos that unfolded only a few yards away Sunday.
At 11 a.m. Wednesday, that establishment reopened as law enforcement officers maintained a presence just beyond its parking lot.
“It really wasn’t very full, which is sad, because at 12:15 it is usually packed,” said Cheyenne Myers, 26, of Chalk Bluff, who dined there during the lunch hour with a friend, Katie Tullous, 25, of Riesel. She called the shootout “a tragic thing,” and both women expressed hope the marketplace and the restaurant don’t suffer long-lasting damage.
Jesus Espinoza, who manages Don Carlos, described business as “pretty good” and said the shootout “had nothing to do with us.”
Melissa Salas, 38, and Lorraine Tellez, 58, both of San Antonio, drove to Waco on Wednesday to view the crime scene. Afterward, they ate “a good Mexican meal” at Don Carlos and talked about a close relative, whom they declined to name, who was among those arrested Sunday.
Salas described her brother as a good man in his 40s with three children in private school, a nice home and not a hint of a criminal record. She said he is a member of a small motorcycle club that performs good deeds such as serving as escorts at funeral processions. She said he and several friends rode by car to Waco on Sunday bound for Twin Peaks.
“It is my understanding they got here after the meeting started,” Salas said. “He didn’t come here to hurt anyone. He came here for a meeting.”
Tellez described her nephew as an “innocent bystander” who now sits in jail under a $1 million bond, adding she hopes to hire a local attorney to assist the family.
Shane Kitzer, a spokesman for the Best Buy electronics chain, said the company is gratified to have its Waco store operating again.
He said employees faced with losing hours because of the closing had three options: work in Best Buy stores in Temple or Killeen; take paid vacation time; or allow the Waco store to find additional hours for them later this week. He said Best Buy would not speculate on whether the shootout would damage its reputation or that of the center.
David Roberson, 46, of Waco, found himself looking for summertime sandals Wednesday at the newly reopened Cabela’s Outpost.
He said he was glad to find Cabela’s again among his shopping options and is pleased that Twin Peaks is closed for good.
“It shouldn’t survive this,” he said. “I’m shocked at what happened at our newest shopping center, where a lot of families are running around on Sundays.”
Sue Collier said she always pays off her Cabela’s credit card balance on the 20th of the month, and she was happy to learn the store would be open.
“I wasn’t concerned before this whole mess happened, and I’m not concerned now,” she said.
Waco resident Mike Thompson purposely shopped at the marketplace, saying he refused to be intimidated by violence.
“I’m not going to let people make me afraid,” he said, adding he switched his haircut locale to a salon near the marketplace and shopped for a cooler in the strip center.