Freeland business hit by thief

Dori Hallberg, Island Tea Company’s owner, stands in front of the door that a thief smashed to gain access to her store. The thief took $500. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Dori Hallberg, Island Tea Company’s owner, stands in front of the door that a thief smashed to gain access to her store. The thief took $500.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

FREELAND — A thief broke into Island Tea Company in Freeland sometime between noon on Sunday and 9 a.m. on Monday, walking away with more than $500.

An employee of the Main Street business arrived Monday morning and could see before she got inside that something was wrong.

“I looked in and saw that the back door was wide open and a water bottle was on its side,” Andrea Strickland said. “I knew Dori’s car wasn’t here, so I backed out, locked the door and went to Second Chance and called the police.”

It’s also not the first time the location had been burglarized.

Just over a year ago, the store was broken into when it housed The Paint Escape.

“Over Presidents Day weekend, a thief broke the window and crawled through,” said Tina Beard, owner of The Paint Escape. “Luckily, I brought my deposits home, but the person stole $150 from the till and all of my Sharpie pens. They also made 45 minutes worth of long-distance phone calls.”

For Hallberg, the loss of $500 represents a lot more than just the money, she said.

“I’m really fortunate. But I lost the ability to purchase more tea that would have brought me more income,” she said.

“I’ve really lost thousands in earnings, between being able to pay my employees, which means being open fewer hours. I have to totally restructure my financial picture for the next year.”

While the loss of the $500 was hard enough, what made her most upset was the loss of about $15 from the tip jar.

“We save up the tips all year and I take my girls out to a big tea celebration. And now all that is left is the change,” she said. “That sucks and is almost worse than the $500.”

Hallberg said she won’t claim the burglary on her insurance because her deductible is nearly the same as the amount that was taken.

“The sheriff’s [deputies] had told me that it is not likely the suspect would be found,” she said. “So I am going to eat the loss.”

But Hallberg has an idea of who might be responsible.

“I’d had a young woman come into my store who was not my usual customer. She was not asking about my tea but looking in the back room,” Hallberg said. “She was neat, quiet, plain and of medium height. And then she left. I see her all the time with her friends at the bus stop across the street.”

The same young woman had come into Beard’s store before her burglary and again last week, she said.

Hallberg said she will make security changes at the store. She is also waiting for the landlord to replace the door and frame with something more sturdy.

Beard wasn’t sure what would make the place more secure other than iron bars.

“It’s an old building. How do you keep people out?” she said. “The Sheriff’s Office needs to recognize who the business owners are and who is in the businesses; slow down and take a look when people are inside the buildings. I work late some times and I wouldn’t be offended if they came to my door and asked me why I was there. But they don’t do that.”

“This is everybody’s problem,” added Hallberg. “Everyone’s got to step up.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or

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