As Jorge Garcia prepared to close the La Guadalupana Joyeria in the waning moments of a Friday afternoon, at 5:55 p.m. on June 26, four armed men in black rushed in, leaped over the counter and pointed guns at him and his two employees.
Thirty-five seconds later they were gone from the store on 2669 Mission Street, with more than $40,000 in cash, gold and jewelry, Garcia said.
One man who appeared to be the leader said, “Go in! Jump! Jump!” the 43-year old Peruvian shop owner recalled Tuesday. The men wore Bluetooth earpieces, which they used to summon a get-away-car that allowed them to scram before the San Francisco police showed up a few minutes later.
“Gracias a Dios nobody got hurt,” said Jose Najera, a customer and family friend at the counter on Tuesday afternoon as the two recounted the incident, pausing occasionally to watch Michael Jackson’s memorial on a small television sitting on the countertop.
As the city touts its lowest homicide rate in nearly a decade, Garcia said some types of crime could increase as the economy declines.
“It’s going to happen more often,” Garcia said. “The economy is so poor.” He said he recognized the robbers, who have not been apprehended by police, from the day before, when they came in the shop as customers.
“This is the face of the economic troubles,” he said.
Garcia did not have theft insurance on his inventory, and said insurance companies won’t even cover jewelry stores on Mission Street at a price he can afford, because of the risk of theft.
The robbery adds insult to injury, as the economy caused a slowdown both in jewelry sales as well as international money transfers, which La Guadalupana also provides. Those are are down 50 percent, according to Garcia. The store also sells phone cards, which are displayed in a row above the jewelry racks.
“It’s hard,” he says, but he’s vowing to start again. He plans to install wrought-iron gates “like the banks in the 1920’s” dividing the back of the store from the front, as well as bulletproof glass – a renovation that will cost about $5,000.
“We don’t know when they will come back,” Garcia said.
Other Mission Street jewelers had not heard of the incident.
“It’s something that happens,” said Elvita Flamenco in Spanish, who runs Elvita Jewelry just a few doors down on the same block. Flamenco said that while crime is bad on 24th Street, things are typically better for shops on Mission.
Aracely Guevara of Jaime’s Jewelry further up Mission Street was more concerned, and for good reason – her brother’s second store, Texis Jewelry, on 24th Street was robbed last year. Four years ago, their Mission Street store, then located between 21st and 22nd Streets, was also robbed when someone grabbed three boxes of jewelry and ran away.
“This area’s not a nice place where you can feel secure,” Guevara said of Mission Street. She added that she occasionally sees customers who say they’ve had chains or rings stolen on the street.
Back at La Guadalupana, Garcia was putting new inventory back in the empty display cases.
“It’s nice and peaceful right now,” Najera said, but “it can get violent at any time.”