FARMINGTON — Business owners are offering a $1,000 reward to help catch whoever is behind a series of burglaries at their downtown shops and eateries over the Christmas weekend, police said.

Employees returned to work after the holiday and discovered the break-ins at eight businesses, ranging from a coffee shop and a pizza parlor to hair salons and a logging company’s office, Farmington police Officer Bridgette Gilbert said Tuesday.

Some businesses had cash stolen from registers and others discovered vandalism and other damage from the break-ins, Gilbert said. She would not disclose the amount of money taken or other details of the burglaries, citing the ongoing investigation.

Police believe the incidents are connected and have asked for the public’s help in solving the burglaries, most of which happened within a few blocks of each other around Main and Front streets, she said.

Maria Stevens got to work early Monday morning and found the back door at Java Joe’s Corner Cafe had been forced open — the locked dead bolt smashed — and all of the money in the cash register was missing.

“It was nerve-racking, coming in here and having the door smashed like that, and it’s hard to believe that somebody in this town would do that,” she said.

Stevens described the amount of cash taken as substantial for a small business to lose.

“It hurts us a lot, and it’s just so awful that somebody would do that during Christmas,” she said.

Stevens has worked for 12 years as manager of the Main Street coffee shop, a place where neighbors go to share gossip each morning. Loyal customers have been reacting in disgust to news of so many burglaries striking downtown businesses, she said.

“We see a lot of really nice and friendly people here, and it’s really shocking to everybody to think about this happening in their community,” Stevens said.

Reports of the burglaries steadily poured in Monday morning, with a few coming the following day, as employees returned to work after businesses had been closed for Christmas, Gilbert said.

Farmington House of Pizza on Broadway and Hair Designs Unlimited on Front Street were the other two businesses that had money taken during the burglaries. The others were vandalized and suffered other damage during break-ins but had nothing stolen, Gilbert said.

Dorinda Stevens, owner of the hair and nail salon on Front Street, spent Tuesday getting a new door and heavy-duty locks installed. She has an employee whose holiday gifts from clients were stolen along with cash taken during the break-in, which caused other damage at the salon.

“I never really thought that it would happen here and people would just be breaking in and destroying things,” Stevens said of her shop.

Gilbert asked for people with information about the burglaries to call the Police Department at 778-6311. The cash reward, established independently by some of the business owners, is for any information that leads to the conviction of whoever is responsible for the burglaries, she said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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