BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — “No good deed ever goes unpunished,” as the old saying goes.
Ryan Goldberg, the owner of Baby Me and Simply Me boutique, a small business off Calloway Drive that sells goods for babies and their mothers, found that out the hard way. It’s yet another case of theft in a string of small Bakersfield businesses being targeted.
“I was born and raised here, and [the store] means so much to me,” Goldberg said through tears. “So, this is super devastating.”
Just before Halloween, Goldberg was going about a normal Monday afternoon when an unusual customer walked in. She had pulled out her pepper spray and a bottle of Windex, just in case.
Goldberg told 17 News despite sensing something was off the moment he entered, she was still welcoming — a kindness that was not returned.
Goldberg explained she typically knows each of her customers well, as she tries to develop friendships with them. She said she was doing the same with the man and ended up learning a lot about him.
“He was here for a pretty good amount of time,” she said. “He actually told me he didn’t have a lot of money, and he was trying to live life right. He was looking for something for his girlfriend, and I told him, ‘I’ll give you a deal, let’s find her something…’ So, I actually helped size a couple of pieces while he was in the store.”
Goldberg said her male customers typically just buy jewelry or gift cards.
This customer, whom she described as she described as tall, slim white male with a shaved head and tattoos, entered with just a sweater on his shoulder and left with his hands full.
The man walked out of the store while Goldberg was turned around to help another customer, stealing about $300 to $500 worth of clothes, Goldberg estimated.
“As soon as I heard the bell go off, I knew what was happening,” she said. “So I ran out the door after him, not to gain the clothes. I was sad and my heart hurt really bad, so I just said ‘I was helping you, and I was treating you like a human, and you didn’t have to do that.’ And he just turned back and looked and he shrugged and kept going.”
After the confrontation, Goldberg walked back into her store and counted the empty hangers – about eight total.
Goldberg said she believes when the man was looking through the clothes, he was arranging pieces together, so he could grab them.
“It hurts a lot because it’s a loss, it’s a complete loss,” Goldberg said. “It’s not enough money to turn into the insurance company, so it just comes out of my pocket, which means it comes from somewhere. And that money obviously could’ve helped pay the overhead, pay the electricity bill.”
“Somewhere,” including the store’s community fund, which Goldberg uses to donate to Bakersfield schools and Future Farmers of America.
Goldberg emphasized Bakersfield is “[her] community,” which is showcased by her the products she carries. She said she sells the products of seven other local businesses, including candles and earrings.
However, Goldberg explained she also shares the struggles of other small businesses in the area in that business is already hard as is.
Having to replace stolen goods out of pocket only adds to the baggage. Goldberg said the small business community is feeling “hopeless.”
“You need to get your name out here, you need to try and get people to come in the door, but you’re also facing these other things and the worry that people that don’t want to come because of the things that are happening to your business,” Goldberg said, concerned.
Goldberg said she did not call police, as she didn’t think they’d do much for a small-scale theft. She described a previous incident at the store, in which the police did not show up until the following day.
Goldberg did, however, call close friend Heidi Shubin, owner of Sugardaddy’s Women’s Boutique, for advice. Shubin experienced back-to-back vandalisms in September.
Goldberg said she will not be upping security measures, nor will she be holding a fundraiser.
“I don’t wanna be that kind of store,” Goldberg said on the future of Baby Me and Simply Me. “I don’t wanna have to keep the doors locked. I want people to come in and not have to worry about that. We are a safe store.”
The shop opened up shop in 2005, initially as Baby Me, selling just baby products. They expanded their offerings to items for mothers and grandmothers as well, becoming the Baby Me and Simply Me of today.
Goldberg has been the store’s owner for three years now. Right before her escrow for the place closed, people broke into the shop, stealing purses and wallets. Goldberg said she chose not to carry that line because the risk wasn’t “worth it.”
But since that shake up, nothing of Monday’s theft scale has happened, Goldberg said. She said she’s at the shop six days a week for the interactions with customers.
“I have a lot of Baby Me and Simply Me grandkids that come in,” Goldberg said. “I do not personally have any grandkids, so I live for my customers and my little grandbabies that come in here… I get to see them pregnant, and then I get to see those babies, and then they grow up. It’s amazing.”
Goldberg even has a play area right by the register, so she can spend time with the younger customers.