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Shadyside jewelry shop takes 2nd hit in week

| Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

John Henne was just feeling like things were back to normal at his Shadyside jewelry store.

The display cases were repaired and inventory restocked after a midday robbery last week, in which a gunman and an accomplice wielding a crow bar smashed glass and took off with jewelry.

About 12 hours after locking up Monday night, Henne got word of another brazen heist.

"I'm kind of at a loss for what to say here," said Henne, whose great-grandfather founded the business 123 years ago. Henne co-owns the business with his sister, Meg Henne Gibson. "I have no idea why this has happened twice in one week."

A dark sport utility vehicle crashed through the front doors and plate-glass windows of the Walnut Street store just after 4 a.m. Tuesday. Surveillance video shows glass shattering and a man jumping from the driver's seat, running through the store and apparently heading for a specific case.

He smashed the glass and grabbed 18 items, mostly titanium rings and necklaces, Henne said. Video shows the burglar running back to the SUV and backing out quickly, momentarily catching the vehicle on a portion of the smashed door frame before fleeing toward Negley Avenue.

Police don't know if anyone else was in the vehicle, or if the incident is connected to the Jan. 11 daytime holdup, said burglary squad Sgt. Kevin Gasiorowski. Police made no arrests in the crimes.

Henne said damage from the first robbery was a few thousand dollars. As workers rebuilt the front door yesterday and prepared to replace the glass, Henne estimated this damage would be close to $20,000.

He said the jewelry stolen both times was "basically on the level of costume jewelry." Pricey jewels are removed from the display cases and locked elsewhere when the store closes, Henne said.

Before this month, the last theft from the store was 42 years ago, when a gunman held Henne's father, grandfather and customers in a back room while an accomplice ransacked the store.

Henne said while it was possible the incidents could be related to an unhappy customer or former employee, he doubts it.

"One of the things we strive for, and pride ourselves on, is doing right by our employees and customers, and I don't know of anyone who would have a grudge against us," he said.

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