The owner of a century-old jewelry store in Victoria says staff have no plans to close up shop after a dramatic armed robbery over the weekend.
Surveillance video of the robbery shows a man entering the store and pulling out a hammer, smashing display cases and stealing items.
A clip from the store’s surveillance video is shown. (Victoria Police)Several expensive pieces, including a Rolex watch worth $20,000, were stolen from the store.
The man was confronted by staff and Francis Jewelers owner Rafal Zebrowski, with some workers picking up chairs to try to force the man outside.
“We’re doing OK,” Zebrowski told Victoria radio station CFAX-1070 on Tuesday.
“But let me just start by saying that we have received an absolute and overwhelming number of emails, texts, phone calls – flowers that have been left in front of our store yesterday with well wishes and so on – that shows that despite what’s happening, people would like us to stay in business and not give up, and definitely we will do that,” he said.
Zebrowski says the store was closed Monday so staff could decompress, share a meal, and discuss what happened.
“I have to say that spirits are high despite all of it,” he said.
“Yes, it was traumatic, but all of our team members are professionals in the industry. They have been doing this for many, many years and they don’t see themselves doing something else.”
While the plan is to remain open in downtown Victoria, changes will be implemented going forward.
Work is already underway to install a new controlled doorway, instead of having an open door during business hours.
“We’ve been an outlier in our industry,” he said. “The vast majority of high-end jewelry stores have it, because we carry high-value items.”
The reason why the shop had resisted installing door controls was so that people could come in and view the items, says Zebrowski.
“My vision for the store is that we are an open door gallery-like feel,” he said. “So that someone who wants to come downtown and shop for clothes, and if they wish so they [can] just browse some jewelry, regardless of if they buy it or not, they can look at the art, because jewelry is wearable art.”
Zebrowski says Francis Jewelers first opened in 1921, and is the oldest jewelry store on Vancouver Island, if not all of BC
He says robberies are a sad part of the industry. “Whether it’s 2023 or 1950, thefts unfortunately do occur here,” he said.
He said one way the downtown core could feel safer if the police did regular foot patrols.
“In the old days we had patrols walking up and down the street and people right away felt safer,” he said.
“It’s disappeared for a host of reasons. Usually there’s not enough money for it,” said Zebrowski. “But I think with the size of the city and with the tax pool that businesses like mine, and much bigger ones provide in this city, I think there should be a bit more money for that.”
Ultimately, Zebrowski says he’s grateful for the support the community has shown and says the business will not be moving on from downtown Victoria where it’s had roots for more than a century.
“We’re not going to give up, we’re definitely going to stay strong and continue our journey.”