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Between $15,000 and $25,000 worth of jewellery and watches were taken after a burglary at Boots 'N' All. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Chocolates, cash, condolences for burgled store owner

The longest-standing tenant in Thames’ shopping centre whose store was broken into last week has been given “free hugs”, a box of chocolates, and cash donations from customers saddened to hear about the mall’s second ram raid in as many months.
James Jesse O’Grady has been a loyal tenant of Goldfields Mall for 28 years – and while the early hour ram raid on September 5 had him questioning his efforts, he told The Profile the outpouring of support from the community proved why Thames was the best town to do business in.
“The day it happened was the worst day we’ve had for a very long time. But the day after it happened filled up the big hole in my heart.”
O’Grady’s store, Boots ’N’ All, was the only business in the mall targeted after offenders used hammers to smash through the front entrance of Goldfields, doing what their stolen car couldn’t thanks to recently installed bollards.
Between $15,000 and $25,000 worth of jewellery and watches were taken.
A few days after the incident, O’Grady said the community had been “amazing”.
“I had an older guy come in with an envelope. I opened it and there was $50 in it. He told me he and his wife were pensioners, but they’d been coming to the shop for 20 years and liked what we did for the community,” O’Grady said.
“I told him: ‘No, I can’t take that, but I’ll shake your hand’, and he started to cry. He took off out of the shop and left me the money.”
The interaction was one of at least 30 that took place in the days after the burglary, and O’Grady said they made him feel “a lot better” about the situation.
“I had contemplated throwing everything in, wondering why I had spent two years building up a really good watch and jewellery range for it all to be taken away?
“But I enjoy Goldfields and I enjoy my customers,” he said. “I’ve watched everybody grow up in this town and I really like Thames and I’m loyal to the people. I could close up and go back to Auckland, but I don’t want to do that, and it’s not always about the money you make, it’s about enjoying your job and enjoying the people who come to your shop.”
O’Grady thanked the community, the Police, and mall manager John Freer, who O’Grady said had been “very upset” over the second of the shopping centre’s ram raids.
“He’s been over to see us a few times and has been trying really hard… he’s an amazing guy and we’re very lucky to have him.”
Police said it was investigating the ram raid which was reported around 3am on September 5, after a car was found abandoned in the Mary Street shopping centre entrance.
Police confirmed that the car had earlier been stolen.
Enquiries were under way to identify and locate the offenders.
DETAILS: Anyone with information which could assist our enquiries is asked to contact Police via 105, quoting file number 230905/2875. Information can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.