Three strikes and they’re out Third break-in prompts jewellers to close Osborne Village shop, seek safer neighbourhood

After three break-ins in three years, Ashok and Sadhana Malhotra are packing up their boutique and moving out of Osborne Village.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2022 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After three break-ins in three years, Ashok and Sadhana Malhotra are packing up their boutique and moving out of Osborne Village.

“I can’t take the stress of this anymore,” said Ashok, co-owner of Silver Skies.

The final straw came New Year’s Day: he received a call that his 452 River Ave. shop had been broken into, along with a slew of other businesses in the building.

“You have no idea what it was like to drive from home to here for the 25 minutes, (after) I got that call,” Ashok said. “It was, like, nerve shattering. We have so much jewelry and silver and gold.”

Ashok and Sadhana Malhotra are moving their jewelry business, Silver Skies, out of Osborne Village after being broken into three times in three years. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Nothing was reported stolen then, according to the Winnipeg Police Service. But thieves have taken thousands of dollars’ worth of goods in the past, the Malhotras said.

They’re looking to leave Osborne Village. Maybe they’ll find a place on Corydon Avenue, Ashok said.

“We’ve been shaken up… We’re still figuring out what to do now,” he said. “We’re not looking (to open) something right away; we’re just too stressed.”

The shop will continue to sell its wares online. The Malhotras are pausing from brick-and-mortar for a couple months; it’s for a mental reset, Ashok said.

“You have no idea what it was like to drive from home to here for the 25 minutes, (after) I got that call. It was, like, nerve shattering. We have so much jewelry and silver and gold.”
– Ashok Malhotra

Businesses in the Village have voiced concern about crime over the past couple years, according to Lindsay Somers, the Osborne Village BIZ’s executive director.

“Community safety is a top priority,” Somers wrote in a statement. “I’ve been in discussions with business members to hear their concerns and have brought them to the attention of the area councillor.”

She said discussions are ongoing, and crime isn’t unique to the Village.

Silver Skies reported its first break-in on March 2, 2019. Someone busted through the back door and stole scarves, sunglasses and leather bags, Ashok said.

The Winnipeg Police Service’s major crimes unit investigated.

Less than two weeks later, on March 15, 2019, Silver Skies filed a second police report.

Ashok and Sadhana Malhotra say thieves have taken thousands of dollars’ worth of goods in the past. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

A man had entered the boutique several times over the course of a day, pretending to leave and consult his wife about what items to purchase, Ashok said.

“I walked across to the Subway to get some food, and he must’ve seen me leave the store, so he walked in,” Ashok said.

The man then took a tray full of rings showcased on the front counter — right in front of Sadhana, Ashok said.

“All the expensive and good rings were in that tray, for first impressions,” he said. “Just that one ring tray that they took was close to $7,000.”

The incident happened around 3 p.m., Ashok said. Sadhana ran out and called for help but couldn’t catch the thief.

“It’s been a tough ride. Now COVID is getting over, now is the time to do some business. We’ve got lots of new stuff coming in too. (But) we are busy packing instead. It’s very heartbreaking.”
– Ashok Malhotra

The break-ins weren’t caught on camera, according to Jay Murray, a public information officer for the Winnipeg Police Service.

Now, Sadhana is afraid to be in the shop alone.

“If I go (travel for work) for a day or two, then I just close the shop,” Ashok said. “It’s not a conducive way to do business.”

The couple previously ran their store — then called Yash Global — in The Forks Market for over two decades. Most of their time in Osborne Village has been pandemic-tinted.

“It’s been a tough ride. Now COVID is getting over, now is the time to do some business. We’ve got lots of new stuff coming in too,” Ashok said. “(But) we are busy packing instead. It’s very heartbreaking.”

“We don’t even get support from the landlords in this area,” he said of the crimes.

The pair is taking a few months to decompress before re-opening a brick-and-mortar, Ashok said.

River-Osborne has seen a decrease in reported property crimes, according to the WPS’s CrimeMaps. In December of 2021, the area had 408 reported incidents, compared to the 652 in December of 2019.

Staff at Unique Bunny, at 106 Osborne St., call police around once a month over attempted thefts or harassment, said Kazumi Yoshino, the store’s assistant manager.

“When we have something, we usually call 911 right away,” Yoshino said.

Folks have stolen the shop’s phones and products for sale, like chips, she said.

“I think you do have to be aware anywhere in this city. I think you just have to… act with caution.”
– Judy Coy, owner of Silver Lotus

“I think with the Village, we always get a bad rap,” said Judy Coy, owner of Silver Lotus. “People move out of places all the time — look at the mall(s). There’s a ton of theft (there).”

Coy used to be a tenant in the building Silver Skies rents. She said the place isn’t well maintained and the security measures are lacking.

Her daughter, Arden Coy, echoed the same thought at her Osborne Village store, Small Mercies.

“That building has definitely been run down,” she said.

The elder Coy hasn’t noticed an uptick in theft but is “a little more vigilant with our watching and trying to be defensive.”

“I think you do have to be aware anywhere in this city,” she said. “I think you just have to… act with caution.”

Osborne Village gained 17 new businesses over the course of the pandemic and has seen eight closures, according to the BIZ’s Somers.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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