NEW SHARON — Tracy’s Kountry Kitchen is like being in a mother’s dining room: wood-paneled walls, tin barn stars, and a friendly reminder from Tracy herself to take your medicine while she pours patrons another cup of coffee.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” owner Tracy Boivin said of the at-home feel she has curated in her New Sharon restaurant.

But on the morning of Oct. 20, when Tracy’s opened at 5 a.m., as it does every day but Sunday, the small dining room and kitchen didn’t feel like a mom’s house. It felt as though someone had broken in and violated that local trust.

Boivin said she found items flipped over behind the cash-register stand, several donation jars cleared of their contents, and the door to the kitchen’s walk-in freezer open. What disturbs her most about the incident is what the burglars took. Fliers for local fundraisers decorate the wall next to the cash register, and on the shelf above it sit three empty collection jars for local causes, which were full before last week’s burglary.

“The donation money being stolen is the true violation,” Boivin said.

Just down Route 27 from Tracy’s, in Farmington, local police have no leads in a similar burglary that occurred at Sandy River Farms about the same time last week.

Trudy Johnson owns the Sandy River Farm Market with her husband, Eric. She said last week’s burglary couldn’t have come at a worse time. Given the seasonal nature of their business, with October being the last month in which they can sell produce and other agricultural products, the money that was stolen from Sandy River was some of what Johnson calls the last “good money” the market could see. Johnson could not disclose the exact amount stolen but said it was substantial.

“In the summer and fall there is an influx of income. … That money was going to help me pay my taxes,” Johnson said.

The burglaries are among four break-ins at locally owned businesses that occurred sometime from late at night on Oct. 19 and to in the morning of Oct. 20. Maine State Police are investigating the break-in at Tracey’s, as well as one at Pine Bluff Farm Store in Rome and another that occurred at the White Water Farm Market just up U.S. Route 2/Route 27 from Tracy’s in New Sharon. A similar break-in occurred just down the same road, at the Sandy River Farm Market, which is being investigated by Farmington police.

Investigators from Farmington and Maine State Police are hesitant to say that the burglaries are linked, though they are aware of the similarities in the cases.

“We are still working on trying to connect the cases as of right now,” Trooper Jillian Monahan said Tuesday. “It’s the same time frame and on similar roads in the area.”

Monahan also noted that whoever committed the burglaries picked locally owned small businesses that were less likely to have security systems.

“Everybody was locked and there was forced entry, but unfortunately no surveillance at any of the (businesses) the state police is covering,” Monahan said. “There are other businesses that are in between along Route 27 that they did skip.”

Altogether, Boivin thinks about $400 was stolen from her establishment. That estimate includes the money she was helping raise via the collection jars for the Franklin County Animal Shelter, the Mt. Blue varsity girls’ basketball team, and Brandon Dudley, a local teen who was paralyzed after being involved in a dirt bike accident this past August.

Johnson said she would not normally leave the day’s earnings at the market itself, but she was busy the day before the burglary and she thought it would be fine left there for one night.

“I thought it was a safe area, but I guess it’s my turn,” Johnson said.

Sandy River stays open year-round, primarily selling milk, eggs, meat and locally made food products through the winter months. Johnson said that the market will be fine and will continue to be able to serve the community’s locally sourced food.

“The community has always been very supportive of us, and they all have been extending their condolences regarding the break-in,” Johnson said. “People have been coming in to get a gallon of milk, and they’ll leave a $20 bill (in support).”

Sandy River was the only establishment that had a surveillance camera in place, but the system malfunctioned on the night of the burglary. Johnson said police are working with computer technicians to try to retrieve any footage from the camera.

Evidence collected by Maine State Police from their investigations was sent to the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory in Augusta on Tuesday.

Police asked that anyone with information regarding the burglaries contact the Maine State Police at 624-7076, or the Farmington Police Department at 778 -6311.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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