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Gerster Jewelers the victim of a April 19 break-in

Every counter display case was broken Thursday night at Gerster Jewelers.

Display cases were smashed and glass covered the floor this morning at Farmington's Gerster Jewelers, the aftermath of an overnight break-in April 19.

A board covered the store's front door, a sign taped to it asking visitors to knock or call before entering.

Damage inside the store was extensive. The front of every counter display case was smashed, jagged chunks of glass sticking out around ragged holes.

Farmington police detective Lee Hollatz said the burglars took gold chains, rings, earrings, bracelets and other items. He put what he called a very rough estimate of the value of the items and the damage done to the store at $100,000.

Store owner Jim Gerster said Friday it doesn't appear anything of significant value was stolen. All of the store's most valuable items and anything that belongs to a customer are locked in a safe overnight.

"It's not that they got much. It's just the destruction," Gerster said, sounding worn out from a long night of dealing with the aftermath of the break-in. "I think we were fortunate in the fact we put everything in thesafe."

Gerster said he wouldn't know the extent of what was taken until cleaning crews had gotten rid of the glass that coated display cases and littered the store's floor. Once the glass is gone, it will be safer to handle the merchandise and see what is missing.

According Hollatz, police got a call at 10:23 p.m. Thursday night after first a front door alarm and then a motion alarm went off. Police were at the store within four minutes, but a search of the building with the department's K-9 unit turned up no people and little evidence.

"What they found was a smashed door. All showcases were smashed, along with the back display cases," Hollatz said. "It was a smash and grab. They work on time. Timing is everything on this, because the alarms are going off. Police are coming. That's guaranteed."

Downtown restaurants were still open when the break-in occurred, and there were business owners still working at some of the other local businesses, but Hollatz said so far police have not found anybody who saw the break-in. Police are still looking for potential witnesses.

"We have a lot of people to talk to," he said.

As they have talked to others about the break-in the Gersters have learned about several other Twin Cities jewelry stores that have been burglarized in recent days. It's not clear if all of the incidents are connected, but the methods are similar.

"It's the same program, and they're fast," said Gerster's father, also Jim Gerster.

Hollatz said only that there were "more than two" similar break-ins recently. The department will work with other agencies to determine whether the incidents are connected.

Gerster was working with his insurance agent Friday morning to figure out what was covered, and they were still trying to help customers. One came in to have a watch battery replaced. Neighbors brought over coffee and other items as the Gersters tried to work through their next steps.

"You just keep plugging," Gerster said. It's all you can do."

Gerster Jewelers has done business in Farmington since 1920. It has been in its current location since 1961. This is the first break-in the store has had.

The Independent will provide more information as it is available.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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