A trio of business owners is alarmed after their shops were the targets of a brazen armed-robbery and two break-and-enters within 11 days.
All three businesses are from the strip of buildings in the 2900-block of Foul Bay Road, a commercial block that’s been there since the 1960s. The three businesses, Tomley’s Market, Dean Heights Hair Salon, and Buttons’n’Bows Fabric Store, are next door to each other.
A knife-wielding man attempted to rob Tomley’s market at about 7:45 p.m. on Halloween (Saturday) night. While it was the most dangerous of the three thefts, the owner, who didn’t want to share his name out of concerns for personal safety, thwarted the theft and tackled the man, pinning him until Oak Bay police arrived shortly after and arrested him.
“He tried to stab me, and he told me [many times] he would come back and stab me,” said the owner, who believes the 43-year-old lives nearby. “I screamed for help, nobody helped.”
Oak Bay Police Chief Ray Bernoties said that while police discourage people from fighting with armed individuals over money there was no doubt that the actions of the store owner lead to the suspect’s arrest and return of the money.
The suspect lurked in the store as a shopper wearing a COVID mask before he confronted the owner with a knife. The man passed a black garbage bag to the owner and requested he fill it with the cash from the till, which he did. But then the owner fled outside and blocked the thief from leaving through the door from the outside. When the thief tried to stab the owner, the owner was cut on the finger but avoided a much worse injury.
Police later released the suspect on conditions.
Although the cash was recovered from the thief, the family that runs the store is feeling uncomfortable and unsafe knowing he was released.
At some point throughout Halloween weekend, there was also a break-in at Buttons’n’Bows Fabric Store. The thief used something to break the front glass door and open the lock.
Owner Tina Taylor didn’t know the store had been entered until she arrived Monday morning.
“I didn’t even notice until I was at the door,” said Taylor, who has owned Buttons’n’Bows for three years.
The people who live upstairs go into a door next to the store and didn’t notice the damage when they came home Sunday night, and Taylor didn’t notice until she was about to put her hand on the doorknob.
“I found the door smashed and the cash register was all over the ground and the cash [$300] was gone,” Taylor said.
Adding insult to injury, the damage and cash loss is too small to bother claiming on insurance, Taylor noted.
“I didn’t really expect it, nothing like this has happened here before but someone or some people in the area are hitting these businesses,” she said.
About 11 days earlier, on Oct. 20, someone entered Dean Heights hair salon through the back door.
“They took an iPad and cash,” said salon owner Meredith Wainwright, who recently bought the business and has worked there for 12 years, since she was 19.
Wainwright is a lifer in the area, having had her first hair cut at the same salon when she was two years old.
“As far as I’m told, there’s never been any break-ins in this block since it opened in the 1960s,” Wainwright said.
Wainwright has purchased security cameras and Taylor said she is going to do the same, while also removing cash from the cash register at day’s end.
”It’s very disappointing to see the increase in commercial break-ins,” Bernoties said. “We have also seen an increase in residential break-and-enters in recent months.”
Since the uptick in break-ins, police have been conducting additional patrols using unmarked vehicles and bikes.
“We’re very aware that it only takes a couple of prolific offenders to commit many crimes,” Bernoties said. “We’re asking the public to call us if they see anything suspicious.”
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