A few brave people stepped up to protect the property of strangers when the streets of downtown Vancouver turned ugly Wednesday night, according to one business owner.

The Quorum Vetrina women's boutique on West Georgia Street is located along a stretch of shops, including the Hudson's Bay Company, that were heavily damaged by vandals and looters.

Owner Franco Nigro said when he learned of the riot, he tried getting back downtown to protect his business.

"I was quite concerned, but [police] had already blocked off the bridges," said Nigro. "So I couldn't come back to the store."

What he saw of the riot on television convinced him his store would have been attacked.

Held vandals at bay

Later, he learned from a postal worker who had visited the store that a group of people had stood their ground in front of the shop and refused to allow the windows to be broken.

Nigro said the postal worker called, "to tell me that my windows were OK. I said, 'How do you know that? Well, I was here [he said.] There was a group of us that had prevented the vandals.'"

A woman was also seen trying to defend an expensive imported car about a block away from Quorum Vetrina, in front of the Bay store.

"This makes you feel big?" she said, taunting a masked vandal trying to get at the vehicle. "This makes you feel big? … I'm not leaving this car."

Another group of men created a barrier in front of the Bay windows — many of which had already been broken — in an attempt to stop the looting.

"We might as well try to make a standard," said one of them. "So other people stop doing this to the city."

Other individual men also were seen on CBC News footage protecting small businesses and trying to talk rioters not to break more windows or enter stores where doors had been broken.

With files from the CBC's Aarti Pole, Alan Waterman and Susana da Silva