Burglars smash door of Sunset District surfboard shop
Thieves smashed in the front door of Ocean Beach-area surfboard shop Sunset Shapers early Saturday morning, damaging the store and making off with several boards.
But James Mitchell, who owns the Noriega Street shop, has been able to find some levity in the situation from how the police found four suspects and recovered the stolen boards.
About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Noriega Street resident Andy Wernette woke up to the sound of breaking glass. He looked out his window and saw three burglars taking surfboards out the door to a car where another person was waiting, he said.
“They all had on hoods,” he said.
Wernette said he yelled at the three men, and although they paused at the sound of his voice they didn’t look up. Although he knows Mitchell from the neighborhood, he didn’t have his phone number so he tweeted a message to @Sunset_Shapers instead.
Mitchell heard from Wenette and his alarm company at about the same time, he said.
“I rode my bike down real quick,” Mitchell said, and the police were already on the scene when he arrived.
Meanwhile, Wernette had met with police officers, and in the process of showing them around the scene he and an officer discovered a key piece of evidence.
“They left a wallet. With a driver’s license,” Mitchell said.
Then, perhaps missing the wallet, the suspects drove by the scene and Wernette was able to point them out to police, and an SFPD investigator followed the suspects to a house a few blocks away.
Mitchell said police told him they arrested four suspects in a house near 47th Avenue and Taraval Street, and he recognized two of them as Ocean Beach surfers — one of them from when he had been in another local surf shop just days before.
“I recognized one of them just because I had been in Aqua on Tuesday,” he said.
Mitchell said that based on photographs police showed him, all of the suspects are in their early 20s, and three are white while one is of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity.
The suspects’ mistakes didn’t start with leaving a wallet at the scene of the break-in and then driving back to get it, Mitchell said. While they took eight boards, most of them with Sunset Shapers store logos on them, they were all used loaner boards, Mitchell said. A cash register and a large rack of significantly more valuable new boards just a few feet away weren’t touched.
He said he doesn’t think the suspects really knew what they were going to do with the boards, since they would stand out to local surfers and weren’t that valuable.
“I think they were just stupid, drunk or high” he said.
“They probably thought about [getting into the shop], not what they were going to take.”
Mitchell said he estimated his loss from the robbery at somewhere around $8,000 to $10,000 including the value of the surfboards, damage to three other boards that weren’t stolen and damage to the store. In spite of the inconvenience and the cost, Mitchell intended to keep the shop’s regular hours Saturday.
At neighboring businesses, surprise at the break-in was mixed with disappointment that a well-respected business owner was the victim.
“That hurts my feelings,” said Hilary Passman of the Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, noting that Mitchell is involved with a neighborhood merchants association, helped organize a Noriega Street fair and holds free barbecues outside the shop in good weather.
“They’re real cool, yeah,” said Danny Pritchard at JM Liquor. “I’m sorry to hear they got broken into.”
Lauren Linagen, a clerk at Sunset Pet Supply, said outer Noriega Street’s merchants are very active in the neighborhood, particularly Sunset Shapers.
“They’re really involved in what we do out here,” Linagen said.
Burglars have struck two Ocean Beach surf shops in the past year. Mitchell said he saw a man throw a pumpkin through the window of Mollusk in October and called police, and last summer Aqua on Sloat Boulevard suffered an expensive burglary.
Aaron Stewart said the store never recovered the stolen property, including a computer with important business information on it.
The store’s loss “was in the tens of thousands of dollars,” Stewart said.
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