Agnes Stayanovich and her husband Walter of Lanyon Home in Penticton have been in retail for over 25 years, but had never experienced being robbed until Friday when a well-dressed man walked into the store and departed with over $800 in bills.
"It wasn't the end of the world, but it was a pretty bad day," joked Walter in reference to Dec. 21 on the Mayan calendar.
The couple own Lanyon Home French Inspired Furnishing, on Ellis Street in Penticton. On Friday, Agnes made a rare departure from the store, leaving her husband by himself. At 2 p.m., the shop became busy with five regular customers plus one they hadn't seen before who came in but left shortly after.
"We don't keep our cash box up front - it's in a very unusual place," said Walter. "Our store has two rooms and I lost sight of everybody. The man who we suspect stole the money was well-groomed and well-dressed. He looked liked he belonged there."
When he did his first cash transaction following the man' departure, he discovered more than $800 missing. The thief took only bills. All of the loonies and two-dollar coins were left in the box.
They suspect a professional carried out the job and believe the thief could have been from out of town.
"Some strange things were happening earlier in the week," he said. "We had someone offer to wash our windows for a low price. It could have been legitimate, but it allowed that person to see into all areas of our store. With most of our clientele being female, maybe a female accomplice came in,
paid cash and watched how the procedure works."
The Stayanovichs are not asking for sympathy but shared their story in order to make other small retailers aware of never letting their guard down, even
for a moment.
"Pay attention. Be aware. Looks can be deceiving. Don't let your guard down for a second," Walter said. "Looking at it now, there's probably 10 things we'd do differently and there will be 10 things we will do differently in the future."
Agnes said the store in its present form has been there for two years and the week before Christmas is a busy time for retailers. While most sales are done through debit or credit, there's still a large sector of the population that prefers to pay with cash.
She suspects the thief was watching from a distance and waiting for the store to become busy.
"In the time we've had this store, we've never even had a bounced cheque or a shoplifter. We have outstanding citizens from our community as customers," she said.
Insp. Brad Haugli of the Penticton RCMP sympathizes with the Stayanovichs and offers some preventative tips.
"Always have an employee at or near the till at all times," Haugli said. "If that is not possible, then develop a system that ensures only a small amount of cash is left in the till."
Haugli said crooks are aware that Christmas is the busiest time of the year for retailers.
"Given this is one of the busiest times of the year, unfortunately thieves are making every effort to take advantage of merchants and patrons, so be extra vigilant."