Owners Stand Firm After SUV Crashes Into Barbershop

This article originally appeared in the April 27, 2016 issue of The Press Enterprise. View clip online.

Posters of Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee on the walls of an East Hemet barbershop attest to the fighting spirit of its owners, who didn’t let a hit-and-run crash knock them out.

“When you fall down you got to get back up, because the round’s not over,” Cristy Gomez, co-owner of Eric Root Razors N Barbers, said Tuesday, April 26.

Between 11:30 p.m. Sunday and 12:45 a.m. Monday, an SUV smashed into the storefront. A neighboring business’ surveillance camera captured the incident, and showed two apparent occupants switching front seats before driving away.

The shop, normally closed on Monday, was a frenzy of cleaning activity starting soon after the crash. Gomez and barber Anthony Basaldua were joined soon after 1 a.m. by volunteers who came and went all day.

In addition to clearing glass from the floor, the cleaning team built a temporary and windowless front wall and door out of plywood. A television news crew stopped by; after its broadcast a viewer called Gomez to say she’d mail a check to go toward expenses.

The offer “blew me off my feet,” Gomez said. “Even though it was heartbreaking to walk in and see our shop like this, the show of support gives us strength to keep going.”

Gomez stayed until almost midnight Monday. At 8 a.m. Tuesday she was back to open for business as usual.

Gomez on Tuesday had two reasons to hope the California Highway Patrol would soon find the culprits: an anonymous caller on Monday said a neighbor’s vehicle seemed to match the vehicle description, and one of the two suspects dropped a cell phone while switching seats.

Gomez doesn’t know if insurance will cover the estimated $60,000 repair. She said she fell behind in her payments when months of road construction outside caused a loss of business. She’s also not sure if her landlord’s insurance will cover any of it.

Nonetheless she presses forward.

“My husband’s family has a saying,” Gomez said. “‘We keep riding until the wheels fall off.’”

“That’s what we’re going to do, keep riding.”