Sidewalk Thefts Frustrate Local Businesses

Tuesday, October 9, 2018, 7:01 am
By: 
Noa Kuszai

With ongoing construction discouraging some from coming to East Lansing to shop, businesses need all the advertisement they can get. However, with the recent thefts of the Archives Book Shop’s sidewalk sign and of Frida (above), the display sheep for Woven Art, these two shops aren’t able to get the attention from passers-by that they desire.

With the theft of his sidewalk sign occurring only a week ago, on September 29, Ray Walsh, owner of Archives explained that it’s hard to tell if business has been affected. But he is sure the sign was important to drawing in customers.

“Small businesses need all the customers that we can get, particularly now, when downtown East Lansing is going through a big time of change,” Walsh tells ELi.

According to Walsh, drivers will have a harder time seeing if the store is open – or noticing the store at all.

“It’s an advertisement for our business to let people know ‘hey, we’re still here!’ You get a lot of people driving by who just don’t stop,” Walsh explained. “It’s vital to any small business to be able to advertise, and that’s why we have a sign out front.”

Meg Croft, owner of Woven Art, explained that her shop doesn’t usually place Frida out on game days, but that the day Frida was stolen, the shop was trying to pull customers in, since it was the third day of their annual Shop Hop event.

“Frida normally is not put out on game days, because we feared this might happen,” Croft said, in an email to ELi. “Because we were having a special event with lots of new customers visiting us for the first time, we wanted to have her outside to make our location more visible.”

Archives Book Shop has had their sign since 1987, when the shop first opened. It was hand-painted by a shop employee who later went on to teach art in North Carolina.

Below: Photo of the store and sign by Edward DiMaio.

“It’s not real pretty, but I think a lot of it is sentimental attachment. And you know, when you’ve taken it out every day for 30 years, you get used it,” Walsh said. “We miss it.”

According to Croft, Frida was a gift from a customer in 2010 who couldn’t keep the display item due to space. She added that she would rather not replace it, explaining that it holds a lot of meaning to the community.

“To me and to the shop, Frida is a symbol of the tight community of fiber people in the East Lansing and Lansing area,” Croft said. “She was also a wonderful mascot to have out in front of the shop.”

According to Steve Gonzalez, Deputy Police Chief of ELPD, thefts like this do not occur often, but they do follow a pattern.

“Our theft reports really do ebb and flow with the population growth and decline of the city,” Gonzalez explained in an interview with ELi.

“As students come back and we have several thousand more people living within the City, we generally see an increase in thefts for a variety of reasons,” he said. “And then, during Christmas break or during summer break, when students are away we’ll see a slight decline in our theft numbers as well.”

Gonzalez also explained that the general reason thefts occur is due to opportunity presenting itself, like an open garage, or in Woven Art and Archives’ cases, an attractive object is outside and unsecured.

According to Gonzalez, ELPD tries to educate the community in order to prevent these crimes from occurring.

“We tell people make sure that you lock your doors, make sure that you keep lights on in your house when you’re away,” Gonzalez said. He added that businesses should consider getting security systems.

“For businesses, installing a surveillance system is great, because if a theft like this does occur, there is a surveillance system, where we can get good video and get that out to people,” Gonzalez said.

He added that anybody can be a suspect in a theft and that it’s hard to tell when they will occur.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but it would not shock me if something like this happened again,” Gonzalez said.

Woven Art and Archives have both taken actions in searching for their displays. According to Croft, customers have helped in the search of Frida.

“A number of our customers took 100 fliers out to local businesses, frat houses, and surrounding neighborhoods and canvassed people on the street,” Croft said. She added that they have received one phone call about the display, but that they were unable to understand it.

Walsh added that his business is looking into getting a replacement sign, but said that it wouldn’t be the same.

“We’re in the process of trying to get a replacement sign for it. It doesn’t have quite the weathered look and character that the other one did,” Walsh said.

With regard to Frida, Croft explained, “I would love to replace her, but I don’t think this will be a possibility.” She added, “I would rather have Frida back.”

Croft told ELi that she’d like to thank Deb B. of Haslett and Naomi G. of East Lansing for spending time searching for Frida. And if anyone would like to bring Frida back anonymously, they can do so by dropping her off at 9 a.m., before anyone is in the shop.