ATHENS — The owners of Jim’s Variety store on Main Street are all too familiar with burglary attempts and have even installed heavy metal bars over the store windows to deter would-be thieves.

But all their security wasn’t enough to prevent robbers from cutting the padlock off an outside security door and stealing $1,500 worth of tobacco products during a break-in early Saturday morning.

Store owner Brandon Pomelow said he got a notice from his security alarm company that his store had been broken into at 2:30 a.m.

When he showed up at the store, he found the padlock on the wrought iron grate securing a side door had been cut off and the door was ajar. Robbers had taken about 15 cartons of cigarettes and an entire rack of Grizzly brand chewing tobacco.

“I really thought the padlock was strong. I thought it was a deterrent,” he said. The fact that the front of the store is covered by a spotlight meant the robbers had to be brazen enough to cut through the lock while flooded with light, he added.

It appeared that the robbers looked through the open cash register but didn’t take any of the small change inside, Pomelow said. The loud alarm probably scared them before they could raid the beer cooler, he added.

“When the alarm went off, they got scared enough that they high-tailed it out of there,” Pomelow said. The thieves left a hacksaw with electrical tape wrapped around the handle inside the store, he added.

The Corner Store, less than a mile away, also reported an attempted burglary on its Facebook page and posted a photo from a security camera showing a person in dark clothing with a hood and a ski mask who it said tried to break into the store. The store offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person.

Pomelow said his store has been robbed dozens of times since his family bought it in 1984. There is no regular police presence in Athens. At night, there also isn’t much traffic on the road, which can make it easier for burglars to avoid notice.

“It’s an easy target out here in the boonies,” Pomelow said.

The last successful burglary attempt was three or four years ago. In response, Pomelow has increased security at the store. After robbers tore the metal grates out of the store windows in one burglary, he reinforced them by bolting them into the wall, he said.

In this case, there wasn’t much damage to the store aside from the broken padlock, unlike other times the store has been broken into, Pomelow said.

“Usually the damage is worse than what they end up taking,” said Pomelow.

The Maine State Police are investigating the break-in and told him there have been other reports of burglaries in the area, according to Pomelow. An attempt to reach the state police for comment Saturday was unsuccessful.

Pomelow said he thinks police will catch whoever broke in Saturday. Thieves usually slip up by talking about the burglary or trying to sell stolen property, such as cigarettes, and someone reports them to the police, he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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