‘Very angry and very frustrated’: White Rock store closes due to repeated break-ins

A paddle board store in White Rock, B.C., has decided to close its doors forever.

Sea Gods owner Mandy Johnston said it’s due to the sheer amount of crime she has to deal with in the neighbourhood.

“I am very angry and very frustrated at the situation,” Johnston said.

Surveillance video shows the first break-in that happened last spring. A suspect used a hammer to smash open a window before snatching a pair of sunglasses.

Johnston said two more break-ins after that led her to close her shop.

“We are a small family business. It was really heartbreaking. Now I have to tell people we are online only, we don’t have the showroom anymore, which is really disappointing,” she said.

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“Financially, it’s about $2,000 to $3,000 for every broken window. And it’s not just about the money, the insurance implications, dealing with strata … it’s the extra loss in productivity.”

The business has suffered since closing the showroom, around a 10 per cent drop in sales.

At the hair salon next door, someone also tried to break in.

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“We had someone try to break in the front, they tried to jimmy it open,” said David Michael, the salon owner. “It seems to be a lot more unsavoury people looking around (our shops).”

Michael said he was sad to see Johnston’s paddle business go.

“It’s very sad. They’re people trying to better themselves in this world and make a living,” he said. “Hard-working people.”

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Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford told Global News business owners need help tackling rising crime.

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“It’s an absolute shame but unfortunately it’s becoming all too common,” he said with regard to the store closure.

“Businesses are getting vandalized at a rapid level, and they’re having to absorb the cost of that and it’s completely ridiculous.”

Emily Boston, a B.C. policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said “about six in 10 small B.C. businesses report crime and safety issues as a significant challenge.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the $10.5-million provincial rebate program, launched last fall, to help businesses grappling with vandalism is a “good start” but it’s not easy to navigate.

“Unfortunately, we’ve heard that a lot of the money from the program has been kind of held up by a difficult application process,” Boston said.

“Of course, small business owners are very happy to have this program in place at all. And B.C. is leading the charge on this front.”

Johnston says she didn’t apply for that money but instead moved her business to her home and online.

For now, the space that Johnston moved her business from still sits empty at the corner of Russell and George streets.

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