Steven Johns picked up shards of broken glass filling his downtown Nanaimo storefront Friday. After not one, but two overnight break-ins within hours at his Commercial Street small business.
“The second time, they threw the brick through the door. We’re pretty sure they used a sledgehammer on the windows the first time,” said Johns, the owner of Red Shelf Decor.
Johns’ antiques and housewares store was first hit first when vandals broke the windows at 12:30 a.m. Monday, and items in the window display were stolen. RCMP and Johns rushed to the scene, and he boarded up the windows, only to be called back at 3:30 a.m. when thieves, this time, smashed through his glass door and took much more.
“You can knock us down, but we’re just going to get back up again,” Johns told CHEK News Friday.
In the face of all the damage, Johns, who has owned Red Shelf Decor shop for four years, said he isn’t discouraged or going anywhere. That was a relief to worried customers and fellow business owners who stopped by one after another at the now-closed shop Friday.
“Like (he is) one of the nicest guys, and he doesn’t deserve this. No one does,” said Nanaimo resident Dominic Davis.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve had so many text messages, Facebook messages,” said Johns.
According to Johns, a jewelry cabinet appears to have been the target of thieves, who quickly emptied it and ran away with the merchandise. But he has found allies in the city’s street community, who now have eyes out for what’s been taken.
“The homeless have come to me, at least five or six people, to tell me they’re asking questions, they’re looking around. It’s been really amazing,” said Johns.
Dave Lawrence is President of the Victoria Crescent Association and said he admires Johns’ attitude and support of the struggling downtown.
“I agree with it. I mean, I’ve had my business here for 16 years, and we’re all fighters. We all know that downtown could be this amazing awesome place, we all just got to fight for it, though,” said Dave Lawrence, owner of That 50’s Barbershop.
According to the City of Nanaimo’s Bylaw department, an increase in patrols by Community Safety Officers who came on full-time in October has improved safety, but there is still work to do.
As Johns looks forward to replacing his now smashed storefront to re-open next Friday.