Stores pick up the pieces after burglar strikes in Clinton

Gretchen O’Sullivan, owner of Clinton Video: “I take it very personally.” - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Gretchen O’Sullivan, owner of Clinton Video: “I take it very personally.”
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

CLINTON — For a smooth-looking professional job, it left a big mess.

Three Clinton businesses are still picking up the pieces after an early-morning burglary last weekend that netted 45 cartons of cigarettes and thousands of dollars.

Hit early last Sunday were the Clinton FoodMart, Mila’s Cleaners and Clinton Video, all in the same shopping complex downtown along Highway 525 at Commercial Street.

Island County Sheriff’s Det. Rick Felici said Thursday that the investigation is continuing, but so far there have been no tips and no witnesses.

“There’s not a whole lot new,” Felici said.

He said the sheriff’s department is stretched thin, but would do what it could to increase patrols in the area.

Meanwhile, the businesses are doing what they can to get back to normal.

“We’ve had other break-in type things, but nothing to this degree,” Clay Anderson, FoodMart manager for more than 15 years, said Thursday. “We’re taking measures. We don’t want to have to deal with this again.”

Before breaking in, the thieves cut telephone and alarm wires for the entire complex that are kept in an electrical box at the end of one of the buildings.

FoodMart was the hardest hit. The thieves smashed the glass front door and kicked in the office door. They disabled the motion detector. Then they ripped up a small safe that was bolted to the office floor and carried it off.

“A big, sound guy could probably carry the safe,” Anderson said. “Two people could carry it for sure.”

On the way out, they tried to break into the in-store bank cash machine, but were unsuccessful, Anderson said. They scooped up 45 cartons of cigarettes, but took no alcoholic beverages, he added.

“They took my garbage can to carry the cigarettes in,” said Valerie Cohn, who had closed the store uneventfully at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Anderson discovered the burglary when he arrived to open the store at 6 a.m. He estimates the burglary occurred between 4:30 and 5 a.m.

“They were in and out pretty quick,” he said. “They seem to know what they were doing.”

Anderson said FoodMart’s total loss in theft and damage was close to $10,000.

Cohn has worked at FoodMart for seven years, and said this was her first burglary.

“Somebody tried to get in through the ventilation duct in the roof a while back, that’s about it,” she said.

Anderson said he has a new safe. “It’s a little bigger, and bolted down in concrete,” he said.

Across the parking lot at Mila’s Cleaners, manager Jacki Cunningham-Brave pointed to her plywood-encased front door on Thursday.

“That’s going to cost $591 to replace,” she said. “They completely trashed the store.”

She said the thieves smashed the door, spreading glass to the other side of the room. They tore up tickets, tags and receipts. They pulled pictures from the wall, apparently looking for a safe. They scattered Cunningham-Brave’s personal effects, and her children’s after-school supplies.

“One blessing, they didn’t touch the customers’ items,” she said.

And they didn’t get any cash, she added — except for the store’s first $1 and $5 bills that were on a wall.

“We don’t keep money on hand,” she said.

Two doors down, at Clinton Video, owner Gretchen O’Sullivan looked over the plywood on her own smashed front door.

“I take it very personally,” she said. “When something like this happens, you feel violated.”

She said the thieves shattered the door, pushed things off the counter, and jimmied open a lockbox that contained a week’s worth of receipts.

“That put my business in a big slump,” she said. “They even took all my candy and pop. We’ll obviously take money and deposit it every day from now on.”

O’Sullivan said the thieves didn’t trash the store, however, “and at least they didn’t take any movies.”

She said many of her customers have written new checks to cover those lost.

“It’s very thoughtful,” she said. “I just love them all.”

Anyone with information on the burglaries can call Felici at 331-4535, or the sheriff’s tip line at 321-5113 ext. 7319.

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