Thieves appear to be targeting Asian restaurants in Loudoun County, according to the sheriff's office.
The pattern is the same in a half dozen break-ins since Sept. 11: The glass front door is smashed in, the cash register or drawer is grabbed and the burglar flees out the back.
Three businesses were hit Thursday night or early Friday morning at Church Road Plaza.
Glass littered the sidewalk in front of Oriental Express restaurant, Vivi Nails & Spa and at Punjab Sweets Indian restaurant. By late afternoon a glass company was putting the finishing touches on new doors.
Ling Zuehsow, who has run Oriental Express for 25 years, said when her chef arrived Friday morning, he called with the bad news.
"They took my cash register, the whole cash register that's old and heavy, and left out the back door," Zuehsow said.
Three other Chinese restaurants in the Ashburn area have also been hit in the past week. The owner of Good Fortune in Junction Plaza believes the thieves are targeting Chinese merchants because of a false notion. She asked her last name not be used.
"In a lot of people's mind they thought Chinese have a lot of cash in their drawers," Cindy said. "That's why they pick Chinese."
But she said most restaurant owners try to clear their drawers at night, leaving just a small amount of change to start the next day.
The store owners also think the thieves were looking for shopping centers and businesses that either had no security cameras or very few.
One outside Hunan Village restaurant in Piccadilly Plaza wasn't working properly.
That restaurant's owner -- who also wanted her identity concealed -- said the break-ins leave her uneasy.
"We love the customers," she said. "We love this community, but it kind of hurts because I can't feel safe anymore when I leave the store at nighttime."
And for small businesses, even losing a small amount of cash is a big hit.
"Why would they do that? We are all here just trying to make a living. It's a shame," said Zuehsow.
The business owners said the new glass doors run between $400-$1,200.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is urging all restaurants and small retailers to make sure they empty their tip jars and cash drawers every night.
They also said it's best to leave cash drawers open. The sheriff's community resources units will be visiting the targeted locations to provide more advice in the coming days.