Caroline Kuiper sits in the back of her newly opened western wear clothing store, surrounded by a stack of shoe boxes piled all the way up to the roof and a black industrial-sized plastic bag full of new clothes.
All of these items must be thrown out, as they were either damaged by wind and rain or contaminated by glass shards from a break-in last Monday. A total of $6,718 of merchandise was either stolen or damaged in the early-morning theft.
A window at the store at 541 Wallace St. was smashed in Monday, March 5 at 12:45 a.m., but Kuiper didn’t find out about it until she got a call from RCMP at 8:30 a.m.
The store’s alarm didn’t go off either, as the sensor inside the store didn’t activate. After the thieves took off with trophy buckles and jewelry, wind and rain whipped in through the broken window.
“The clothes were wet. There was glass over everything,” Kuiper said.
It’s a tough blow for Caroline and her husband and business partner Trapper Kuiper. The two opened Broke Buckle Clothing Company on Wallace Street just three months ago. This business is the retirement fund for the couple, who moved to Hope from careers spent ice road trucking in northern Canada.
The week of the break-in the store lost a lot in sales and the full costs of the business lost will only be known come fall.
“This break-in is not only hurting us now, it’s hurting us for fall already,” Kuiper said.
The store’s deadline to complete their order for two major western brands passed at noon on the day of the break-in.
“So we’ll be lucky to get the new styles in.”
People who dress in western wear are particular about having the latest styles and looking sharp, Kuiper said. A big moneymaker are fall jackets, some of which she is unsure she will be able to get in.
Plans to work on a plus-size section have also been put on hold because of the break-in.
“I felt all week, last week, like my windows were all open and I was running around in my nightie or something. This is the first time that I can actually say that I understand when women say they’ve been violated, when people say they’ve been violated,” Kuiper said.
After the initial shock and anger following the theft, Kuiper said she is determined not to let this change her plans. The store has since put on an “in spite of dirty deeds” sale, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Monday’s break-in.
“This wasn’t a hurricane; it was petty thieves,” she said. “They don’t get to shut me down. I’m very stubborn.”
So stubborn, in fact, she got the nickname “Tank” and very nearly became a mule driver before she reached her teenage years.
When she was 12, her grandfather wanted to bring a team of mules home for her. Kuiper’s mother asked why, to which her father replied, “The only thing more stubborn than a team of mules would be your daughter.”
Kuiper said she’s thankful for the support in the community, with close to 30 letters of support written by customers to the insurance company.
Kuiper has since installed more security measures at the store, but she would also like to see the area patrolled by police. The break-in wasn’t noticed until about eight hours after it happened.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Karol Rehdner said Wallace is one of the most patrolled streets in Hope because of the commercial properties there.
There are upwards of seven RCMP members out in the community during peak hours from 2 p.m. to midnight. Patrols happen 24 hours a day, Rehdner added.
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