After three burglaries in three years, Ashok and Sadhana Malhotra tidy up their shop and move out of Osborne Village.
“I can’t take the stress of this anymore,” said Silver Skies co-owner Ashok.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came on New Year’s Day: he received a call informing him that his store at 452 River Ave. had been broken into, along with a host of other businesses in the building.
“You have no idea what it was like to drive from my house to here for the 25 minutes, (after) I got that call,” Ashok said. “It was, like, nerve-wracking. We have so much jewelry, silver and gold.”
Nothing was reported stolen at the time, according to the Winnipeg Police Service. But thieves have taken thousands of dollars worth of goods in the past, the Malhotras said.
They are looking to leave Osborne Village. Maybe they’ll find a place on Corydon Avenue, Ashok said.
“We were shaken… We are still figuring out what to do now,” he said. “We’re not looking (to open) something right away; we’re just too stressed.”
The store will continue to sell its products online. The Malhotras stop at brick and mortar for a few months; it’s for a mental reset, Ashok said.
“You have no idea what it was like to drive from my house to here for the 25 minutes, (after) I got that call. It was, like, nerve-wracking. We had so much jewels, silver and gold.
Businesses in the village have expressed concern about crime over the past two years, according to Lindsay Somers, executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ.
“Community safety is a top priority,” Somers wrote in a statement. “I have had discussions with business members to hear their concerns and have brought them to the attention of the regional councillor.”
She said discussions are ongoing and the crime is not unique to the village.
Silver Skies reported its first burglary on March 2, 2019. Someone broke through the back door and stole scarves, sunglasses and leather bags, Ashok said.
The Winnipeg Police Service Major Crimes Unit investigated.
Less than two weeks later, on March 15, 2019, Silver Skies filed a second police report.
A man had walked into the shop several times over the course of a day, pretending to leave and consulting his wife about items to buy, Ashok said.
“I walked across the subway to get some food, and he must have seen me leaving the store, so he walked in,” Ashok said.
The man then took a tray full of rings from the counter – right in front of Sadhana, Ashok said.
“All the expensive and good rings were in that tray, for first impressions,” he said. “The only ring tray they took was almost $7,000.”
The incident happened around 3 p.m., Ashok said. Sadhana ran away and called for help but couldn’t catch the thief.
“It was a tough race. Now that COVID is recovering, now is the time to do business. We also have lots of new stuff coming. (But) we’re busy packing instead. It’s very heartbreaking.
The break-ins were not caught on video, according to Jay Murray, a public information officer with the Winnipeg Police Service.
Now Sadhana is afraid of being alone in the store.
“If I go away (traveling for work) for a day or two, I just close the store,” Ashok said. “It’s not an auspicious way to do business.”
The couple previously ran their store – then called Yash Global – in The Forks Market for more than two decades. Most of their time in Osborne Village was pandemic-tinged.
“It’s been a tough journey. Now that COVID is recovering, now is the time to do business. We also have a lot of new stuff,” Ashok said. “(But) we’re busy packing instead. It’s very heartbreaking.”
“We don’t even get support from the landlords in this area,” he said of the crimes.
The pair are taking a few months to unpack before reopening a physical store, Ashok said.
River-Osborne has seen a decrease in reported property crimes, according to WPS’s CrimeMaps. In December 2021, the area had 408 reported incidents, compared to 652 in December 2019.
Staff at Unique Bunny at 106 Osborne St. call the police about once a month for attempted theft or harassment, said Kazumi Yoshino, the store’s assistant manager.
“When we have something, we usually call 911 right away,” Yoshino said.
People stole the store’s phones and products for sale, such as chips, she said.
“I think you have to be aware all over this town. I think you just have to… proceed with caution.
— Judy Coy, owner of Silver Lotus
“I think with the Village we still have a bad reputation,” said Judy Coy, owner of Silver Lotus. “People move all the time – look at the mall(s). There’s a ton of thefts (there).”
Coy was a tenant in the building rented by Silver Skies. She said the place was not well maintained and security measures were lacking.
Her daughter, Arden Coy, echoed the same thought at her Osborne Village store, Small Mercies.
“This building has definitely been run down,” she said.
The senior company hasn’t noticed an uptick in theft, but is “a bit more vigilant with our monitoring and trying to be defensive”.
“I think you have to be aware all over this town,” she said. “I think you just have to…be careful.”
Osborne Village has gained 17 new businesses during the pandemic and has seen eight closures, according to BIZ’s Somers.
Gabby is a huge fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
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