Convenience store is a convenient target for thieves

Mitch Cormier is at wit’s end. The Mama’s Corner Store owner has had her business broken into four times in the last year.

Mitch Cormier is at wit’s end.

The Mama’s Corner Store owner has had her business broken into four times in the last year.

The most recent robbery was Wednesday night when someone smashed the window on her front door and stole about $300 worth of cigarettes.

“I was robbed January 6th, February 6th and March 9th, which was crazy enough,” she said.

“I feel like the community hates me.”

Cormier, who owns Bocelli’s Pizzeria, took over the store August 1st, 2005, and has been feeding the hungry ever since.

“If someone comes in asking for money, or is hungry, I give them some homemade soup and a sandwich,” she said, sitting at a cozy corner table in the sun.

And if people are cold, they’re welcome to come in and just sit down, she said.

“I like having bodies in here. I just sit and bullshit with them,” said Cormier.

“We’re almost a non-profit community centre — sometimes it feels like that.

“We’re very generous and kind to the community and our neighbourhood.”

But Cormier’s kindness has been thrown in her face.

“That’s what really bugs me,” she said.

“The previous owners didn’t give anything away.”

And they didn’t have nearly as many break-ins, she said.

“When it was Northern Smoke, the owner never had so many problems,” she added, noting that he joked with her, saying “they must not like you very much.”

Cormier is discouraged.

“I’m going to put the store up for sale,” she said.

“And it’s going cheap.”

Every broken window has cost her about $500.

“I’m becoming a regular customer at All West Glass,” said Cormier, pointing to her boarded up door.

“And it’s all just too much energy for the returns I’m getting.”

After the first robbery, which also targeted smokes, Cormier started locking up her tobacco.

And this was effective for a while.

During the last two break-ins, the window was smashed but nothing was taken, except maybe some pop and snacks, she said.

And the shop has never been vandalized during a robbery.

But the most recent break-in was premeditated, said Cormier.

“They must have come with a crowbar, bashed in the door and then pried open the cabinet where I lock up my smokes,” she said, pointing out the bent metal flap.

There were scratch-and-win lottery tickets and cartons of smokes locked in the cabinet as well, but only one shelf was pried open.

The alarm was going off and it’s loud, said Cormier.

So they probably didn’t have much time.

“They only took name-brand smokes, no menthols,” she added.

“And they stole all the lighters — they need them to light all those smokes.”

Although the police have always been notified, no one has been charged in the robberies, she said.

And after one of the break-ins, the police came, checked out Bocelli’s next-door, didn’t see any sign of a break-in, and left.

So, when Cormier arrived at about 4 a.m., she was alone at Mama’s facing a broken window.

“And I didn’t want to go into the store and down into the dark reaches of the building to get boards and nails with this open storefront,” she said.

“So I called 911.”

After Cormier had grabbed some plywood to board up the window, the cop asked if he could leave.

“He didn’t even offer to hold the board for me,” she said.

But Cormier’s tough.

It’s all women who run this store, she said.

“And we deal with these big drunk guys coming in.

“I’m not afraid of them — I just put on my big voice,” she said with a laugh.

A convenience store has operated on this spot since 1947, she said.

“But in my case it’s really an inconvenience store.

“We don’t have everything, but we carry what people want, and we have the cheapest lunch in town.”

A homemade soup and sandwich is only $5 and Cormier plans to open a Mexican hot table in December serving veggie chili, with optional meat, and burritos.

“And I’m going to keep it in the $6 range,” she said.

Sandwiches are one of the more lucrative items in the store, but Cormier still doesn’t make much at Mama’s.

“It’s a nickel-and-dime business,” she said.

Although Cormier didn’t make much on cigarette sales, she’s worried that when she drops them, other store items will also decline in sales.

“People who stopped for smokes would get exposure to the lunches, or buy a pop or a pack of gum too,” she said.

In the future, Cormier may sell cigarettes again, but for now she’s done.

“If I remove the smokes, I remove the desire to break-in,” she said.

“And they don’t bring a good return.”

However, Cormier was selling anywhere form 20 to 50 packs a day, and that’s a lot of people coming through the store, she said.

Mama’s is not the only store in the area that’s had trouble with crime, said Cormier.

“When Icycle Sport was across the street, they had at least two or three break-ins, and so did Sears,” she said.

There needs to be more citizens on patrol, or more people working for a downtown Crime Stoppers, she said.

“The police work hard, but it’s a small force dealing with a vast amount of crime.

“I hope everyone comes in and shows support buying lunches to help pay for that window,” she added with a laugh.