Vashon businesses find the bright side in the break-ins

Over the last three weeks, at least five businesses on the island have suffered break-ins.

A recent rash of thefts at island businesses has been cause for renewed security — and even a sense of gratitude — from local store owners.

Over the last three weeks, at least five businesses on the island have suffered break-ins, said Vashon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amy Drayer, mostly centered around the Bank Road/Vashon Highway downtown area.

King County Sheriff’s Sergeant Kiersten Whitacre said deputies are investigating the matter. Surveillance footage from two of the incidents showed a thin white man in a winter coat / knit cap, but evidence so far doesn’t definitely tie all of the incidents to the same suspect. In the meantime, deputies are making more visible patrols downtown, including late at night, Whitacre said.

C’mon Barber owner Tara Morgan, who operates her mobile barbershop from an old airborne express truck, came to work Wednesday morning of last week to find an iPad and Bluetooth speaker gone.

The items were worth around $400 altogether, and nothing else was disturbed; the thieves likely entered through truck’s roll-up door.

The truck shares a location with Country Store and Farm and the Little Bird nursery, and the businesses have cameras and other security measures — “so I don’t think we’ve ever really thought it was an issue,” Morgan said.

But Morgan counts herself fortunate enough to be able to replace the items, and she wants the best for whomever took them.

“You have to be in a pretty serious state of mind … to want to break into somebody’s livelihood,” she said. “And I really hope they got what they needed. … I’m still really grateful that they didn’t vandalize [anything].”

It may not be much of a “crime wave,” especially compared to property crime in other King County cities. But it’s still an unusual surge for the island community, Drayer said.

“If you have small things going on, and you don’t pay attention to them, and you don’t deal with them, the longer they sit … the bigger they get,” she said. “We understand that compared to the Seattle metro area, what we’ve got going on is no big deal. … [But] for us it’s a really big deal. … There’s a lot of privilege to being able to live on Vashon, in many ways. Being safer from crime is one of them, but crime still impacts the community.”

Liz Ophoven, who has owned Wine Shop Vashon since June, said a thief or thieves appear to have pushed an air conditioning vent tube through a window to access the store, taking about $50 from a cash register, and walked out the back door, closing it behind them. It all happened in the early morning of July 30.

This is the second time the store’s had a break-in, and the first time an entire shelf of wine was missing afterward, Ophoven said. This time, it’s not clear if any wine bottles were taken and the cash seems to have been the main target.

“Fifty dollars is a lot to a small business,” Ophoven said. “That $50 of revenue could help me purchase another case of wine at wholesale to sell … (or it’s) four hours of labor for someone to help me, and that four hours is really valuable time. … Any loss is big. … We’re not operating, typically, with huge amounts of cash reserves.”

At the same time, Ophoven said the incident won’t shake her optimism about living and running a business here. She’d like to find out who’s behind the break-ins and see if the person or persons can be helped by the Vashon community.

“I think the island is such magical place,” Ophoven said. “I shored up my security, but it won’t change the way I feel about doing business on the island. … I’m determined to keep the vibe where we want it, rather than have outside circumstances create a bad energy.”

May Kitchen and Bar co-owner Tom Schwaegler said that someone a couple of weeks ago accessed the Thai restaurant through an unsecured window, took several hundred dollars’ worth of liquor, a pair of wireless speakers, and left.

Altogether, it wasn’t that bad, Schwaegler said; the liquor and speakers have been replaced already, and it taught him to better secure one of the windows into the business.

“We feel blessed and fortunate to be living and operating a business on Vashon Island,” Schwaegler said.

It’s the first break-in they’ve had since opening in 2012 — and for Schwaegler, ironically, a reminder of how blessed he really is.

“We’ve just moved past it completely,” he said. “Because, again, what are we talking about? A total of 600, 700 bucks? In my opinion, it’s a pretty low price to pay to live in an otherwise pretty stable community.”