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When you rob a small business – when you rob ME – you are doing more than just taking the cash necessary to acquire your fix.
When you rob a small business you are, first and foremost, violating a sacred space. This shop is built on my dreams and, literally, on my blood, sweat and tears. This shop is my child. I have created it, grown it, nurtured and fed it. I love it. And you hurt it – which makes me angry and also hurts me. You violated someone and somewhere that is family to me.
When you rob a small business, you are also taking money directly from someone that is probably poorer than you are. I don't take a salary from the shop. Every dime the shop makes goes back into the shop to cover the bills and hopefully keep the business afloat through this hard, hard economic time.
Your choice to rob my shop literally endangers my ability to survive in business, to have a job, to be a productive member of society and of this community – a community you are also a member of.
When you rob a small business, you are making that community feel unsafe and concerned about the choice to be in Shelbyville, about each individual's personal safety at night, about the wisdom of being a business owner here.
You make people question safety in a time when other questions loom large and concerns about protecting the little we have make us anxious and, sometimes, scared. This makes us touchy and grumpy – we sit ill in our skins and negative in our thoughts – we fret and fear and freak out at the smallest things because it's uncertain enough without YOUR help.
As I cleaned up the glass with your footprints on it (which pleased the police and should they find you and match your shoes to the prints, I will have no choice but to press charges, I cannot risk your telling your friends and having my beloved shop becoming a crack-addict's ATM) I was sad for you, sad that you have made choices that have led you down this path, sad that you belong to an addiction that requires you to hurt others this way.
Do not fool yourself that this was a victimless crime.
You have hurt me.
Truly, deeply, and in a way that will stick with me forever.
And because I am a small business owner who pours every ounce of my focus and energy into this business and this community, this pain is very, very personal.
Yes, I am grateful that you only stole the money in my drawer, not my stock, and that you didn't trash my beloved shop. Windows can be repaired, money can be made up through hard work and holiday shoppers. Emotional wounds do heal with time.
But I'm just so sad, and I feel the pain so keenly right now, pain sharper than a cut on my hand from my broken glass with your footprint on it. I weep real tears for the loss of innocence as a business owner.
And this is what it means when you rob a small business.
Regan Wann is the owner of Through the Looking Glass, a tea shop in Shelbyville.