ATHENS — A $500 cash reward is being offered by the owners of a village convenience store for information leading to the conviction of whoever broke into the town’s other store over the weekend, stealing $1,500 worth of tobacco products.

There also is new security camera footage showing a truck that might have been used in the burglaries. That footage was to be turned over to police Tuesday.

A thief or thieves used a hacksaw to cut a padlock early Saturday morning on a wrought iron grate covering the front door at Jim’s Variety on Main Street. They took about 15 cartons of cigarettes — mostly Old Gold, Marlboro and Pall Mall — and an entire rack of Grizzly chewing tobacco. State police were not able to provide any new information on the burglaries Tuesday, but Somerset County Detective Mike Ross is meeting with state police Wednesday on it, according to Chief Deputy Jim Ross.

The metal grate was installed after previous burglaries at the store.

Jim’s and the Athens Corner Store are the only two stores in Athens.

Stephanie Miller, a manager at the Athens Corner Store and daughter of store owners Steve and Julie Jewell, who are offering the reward, said the burglaries are about more than Jim’s.

“We’re just trying to help out the community because the community is in need right now and we want to help catch the person,” Miller said Tuesday. “We’ve always said there was enough business in town for both of us, so we don’t feel like they’re our rival.”

The Corner Store was targeted as well, Miller said Tuesday.

About $1,500 worth of damage was caused early Saturday to a heavy metal receiving door at the Corner Store in an attempted break-in there.

An enlarged photograph from surveillance video at the Corner Store of a person suspected of trying to break into both stores is taped to the counter at the Corner Store with an announcement of the cash reward.

The fact that the front of Jim’s Variety store is lit by a spotlight meant the thief or thieves had to be brazen enough to cut through the lock while flooded with light, Jim’s Variety owner Brandon Pomelow said Sunday, adding that he had thought the padlock was a good deterrent.

It appeared that the thieves looked through the open cash register but didn’t take any of the small change inside, Pomelow said. A loud alarm at the store probably scared them before they could raid the beer cooler, he said. The thieves left a hacksaw with electrical tape wrapped around the handle inside the store, he said.

The Corner Store also reported the 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. The post says it’s a photo of the person who tried to break into the store.

Jim’s Variety also posted the image on its Facebook page, along with photos of the damaged front door, which generated more than 800 shares of the posting.

Pomelow said his store has been robbed dozens of times since his family bought it in 1984. He said there was no police update Tuesday on the investigation.

Pomelow said the store is insured against damage and lost sales, but with a $1,000 deductible, it’s not worth filing a claim for $1,500 in lost product.

Pomelow said he appreciates the reward offer, noting that the crimes over the weekend affected both businesses. He said there was probably as much damage to the Corner Store as there was in lost merchandise at his store.

“I can see why they’re interested in getting them arrested as well,” Pomelow said. “Hopefully, the reward will lead to some arrests, that’s for sure.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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