Julie Teague had operated her Mayberry Consignments store on North Main Street in Mount Airy for 22 years without a major incident — until last week.
Now she is warning other business owners to take steps to make them more secure, after a break-in at her store which netted cash, jewelry, clothing and other property.
“I just can’t believe what a devastating experience this has been, especially six days before Christmas,” Teague said of the incident that occurred during the overnight hours of Dec. 19.
As do most merchants, Teague has experienced problems with shoplifters from time to time at her store, which features an array of high-end clothing, souvenirs and other merchandise that is offered on a consignment basis. But she did not expect it would be broken into, since this had not been a problem before and she assumed the building was secure.
Underestimating the great lengths criminals sometimes will go to ply their illegal craft was one factor in the break-in, Teague readily acknowledges.
The two male suspects responsible — as indicated by a surveillance video showing the crime in progress — did not break a window or pry open a door to gain entry, instead employing unconventional means.
They used various methods to climb up neighboring structures to reach the top of Mayberry Consignments, which is among a row of stores in the central business district. “They went from roof to roof to get to mine,” Teague said. “I never imagined anybody in my four-story building, going through my roof.”
After the break-in was discovered, Teague canvassed the area to see if anyone else on the block had been hit in a similar manner, but found that her store was the only one.
Once inside Mayberry Consignments, the two searched for — and found — the store’s proceeds from the previous day’s sales, an unusual circumstance since the business owner said that on any other occasion the money would have been locked up elsewhere.
And since holiday shoppers had been out in full force, “we had quite a bit more cash than we normally would,” Teague said regarding another element of bad timing involved.
The pair also removed the door from a jewelry case to steal selective items, and took name-brand men’s clothing in larger sizes, cameras and other desirable merchandise.
“This was planned out,” added Teague, who believes that an advance visit to the store had occurred before the break-in to meticulously pinpoint where the choice items were kept. On the surveillance video, the perpetrators seemed to know exactly where they were going inside the large floor area that once was the home of Baldwin’s Department Store and before that Jackson Brothers Department Store, two venerable Mount Airy businesses.
Since the two wore hoodies that partially obscured their facial features, identifying them has been difficult. Both appear to be short and stocky individuals. The Mount Airy Police Department responded to the break-in, but no arrests have been announced.
The crime at Mayberry Consignments prompted a Downtown Business Association representative to issue an email alert to local stores regarding the rooftop break-in, urging them to take precautions including securing all access points. The merchants were advised to make special efforts to do this during holidays and other times when downtown stores are closed.
Meanwhile, Teague has implemented stepped-up security measures at her location and is urging others to do the same. “I just want everybody to be more aware, be more careful,” she said, emphasizing the anguish the incident at Mayberry Consignments has caused her.
“When you own your own business, it’s like your child,” Teague said in mentioning how she has worked long hours day and night to build it up and establish a quality inventory.
“And when someone just comes in and takes it, it’s an overwhelming experience to go through.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.