In the late hours of Saturday, May 1, someone threw a brick through one of our shop’s windows and stole our best bike. We built it custom from the frame up; we were proud of it; and so we put it in our window display. That night happened to be a hot one and so windows above us and across the street were open. Everyone heard the glass break and the burglary was reported immediately. But the thief was long gone.
The next morning we found out via email. I’d been waiting for this to happen. Bikes are in high demand and the neighborhood… well, it is still a bit transitional — after dark.
I left the girls and the dog with Mandy while I busted a move to the shop to 1) secure our inventory and 2) survey and clean up the damage. Much to my surprise and relief we hadn’t been looted because the window was boarded up. Unfortunately, the window glass wasn’t tempered, and there were razor-sharp shards almost to the back shop where I found the brick that was used.
Dylen, our first hire, came in early on a Sunday to help with clean up. We took home the most expensive bikes, locked up everything else, and asked customers to pick up their repaired bikes ASAP. Damage control phase completed, we commenced the recovery and revenge phases.
We were insured so we added up the expenses to make the claim:
$3400 58cm Fairdale with Campagnolo Potenza and Hope RX4 brakes
$1200 for a tempered 3’ x 8’ pane of glass and installation
That came to $4600. The policy had a $1000 deductible and — here is the fine print — it only covers cost. That Fairdale was only worth $2400 to the insurance company. At the moment we are $2k in the hole from the theft and that doesn’t even count the hours spent cleaning up, dealing with the insurance company and police, and fighting the City of Saint Paul.
Wait, what? A few days later I noticed a guy wearing khakis and a shirt with buttons loitering on our corner. He had a clipboard and that made him look official. I went out to talk to him wondering if he was the insurance adjustor. Nope, he was from Code and Inspections. He was there checking to make sure the plywood had been installed. Upon learning this I asked why and was told that we would soon be receiving an invoice from the City for the work.
Excuse me? We just got robbed and now you are sending us a bill for it? Fuck. Off. Saint. Paul. As I recovered from that news I asked him the same question that I have been asking ever since: Why don’t you bill the criminal? No one, not him, not my elected officials or their staff, has been able to come up with a satisfactory justification for the $470 we were invoiced. That’s $310 for materials and $160 for a City administrative fee.
Eventually I did hear back from my Council Member and Code and Inspections. The former wasn’t aware of this City practice and policy; the latter explained the process for appealing the assessment, which involves filling additional paperwork and making my case to the Council. Or something like that. The process wasn’t logical and I was too pissed off to play their game.
Instead, since May 2, 2021, I have shaded the City to everyone who asks about the plywood window on the front of our store. The plywood is going to stay there until the City buys back its brick which was used to smash our window ($470) and it changes its asinine policy of penalizing the victims of crime.
So what should the City have done? 1) prevent crime (but I realize that such a thing is unrealistic when something like 100 shots were fired that same night elsewhere in St. Paul); 2) contact me when my business has been broken into so I can secure it myself; and 3) failing those other things, go ahead and charge me the $470 but refund it when I install a new pane of glass — otherwise there’s little incentive for me to spend $1200 replacing the window when we’re already out $2,000.
We had said good-bye to downtown St. Paul a long time before this happened. This was just additional vindication of our decision to move our family and our business. We love the people we’ve met along the way, and they deserve way better from City Hall and their elected officials.