Toys From the Attic, All-American Sports Cards feel the support after recent break-ins

Don Berrios, owner of Toys From The Attic, a sports cards and collectible store in Somersworth, is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual who broke into his store and stole $10,000 worth of merchandise on July 3.

SOMERSWORTH — Sometimes going through the worst moments brings out the best in others. When a pair of local hobby shops were broken into in recent weeks, it brought the card-collecting community together in a show of support to help the shops get back on their feet.

Toys From The Attic in Somersworth and All-American Sports Cards in Rochester each suffered break-ins in the last month. These are just two of 14 such shops to have been burglarized since mid-June between southern New Hampshire, northern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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Don Berrios, owner of Toys From The Attic, a sports cards and collectible store in Somersworth, is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual who broke into his store and stole $10,000 worth of merchandise on July 3.

While the break-ins were setbacks for these small businesses, the response from the card-collecting community has reminded the shop owners why they love what they do.

“We had people show up to buy something, just to help us out,” said Toys From The Attic owner Don Berrios said. “That was awesome. That alone, kind of, makes you feel better. It feels like people care.”

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For James Crowder, owner of All-American Sports Cards in Rochester, it went beyond the merchandise that was stolen. Robbers went into his office and cleared out a case of signed Pittsburgh Steelers merchandise.

“It definitely sucks,” Crowder said. “I feel like the response has been that people are trying to help.  The police are working on it, and the people in the community have been really great.”

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Both Berrios and Crowder think some customers who have come in since the robberies have done so just to be supportive, and that means a lot.

“I’ve been open 23 years and I’ve met many wonderful people,” Berrios said. “I get used to seeing the same people. With all this happening, I just have to look at these people as blessings.”

Rochester, Somersworth police investigating

Rochester Police Captain Andrew Swanberry couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but encouraged anybody with any information to call the Rochester Crime Line at (603) 335-6500.

Somersworth Police Captain Matthew Duval doesn’t believe the break-ins are necessarily connected, and the department is looking into the robbery at Toys From the Attic as an isolated incident.

Berrios has put up a $500 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those who robbed his store.

‘Sleepless nights’ for those involved in the business

Jeff Lisbon, owner of Diamond King Sports in Greenland, had his shop broken into in early 2020. Lisbon said the recovery was difficult for such a small business, but the community rallied for him, the same way it is for the 14 shops that have been broken into since June.

“Individually, we aren’t strong, but as a community we’re very strong,” said Lisbon. “Everybody definitely keeps in touch, talks to each other. It’s a lot of sleepless nights for everybody.

“Having gone through it at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s pretty life-changing,” Lisbon continued. “The frustrating part is, it’s such a fun, family type of environment and (the criminals) are tainting that with their actions. Nationwide, it’s a problem. We’re just taking the brunt of it right now.”

More burglaries could mean the end to the “small guys” in the business

Chris MacDonald, owner of Seacoast Sports Cards in Dover, said that while no business wants to go through an event like this, it could be a death blow for his new shop, which is just a year old

“This isn’t Wal-Mart,” MacDonald said. “The small guys, we can’t afford this. This is our livelihood. Insurance doesn’t pay full price of what we lose. You’re hurting people who are trying to keep this hobby together. Without us, the stuff you stole has no value.”

Crowder said the damage from the theft goes beyond just lost goods. There is a breach of trust, as well as the anxiety that something like that could happen again. He added that it hurt more than just himself, but his customers as well.

‘It’s personal. They’re taking food off our tables.’

“It’s personal for sure,” Crowder said. “One of the hardest parts, for me, is that I had some stuff on consignment for people that was stolen. Now I have to explain to those people, ‘I’m sorry, your card got stolen.’ Losing people’s things they trusted me to consign for them hurts worse. If somebody is going to get hurt I’d rather it be me than the people that trust me.”

“They aren’t just stealing goods,” Lisbon added. “They’re taking food off our tables. This has been my livelihood for 32-plus years. I’m very proud of that. But things like this have everybody looking over their shoulders.”

Berrios had thoughts of closing his doors for good

Berrios had just gone north for a fishing trip in Pittsburg when he was called early on the morning of July 3 with the news he store was broken into.

“I was driving back, steaming all the way,” he said. “I had the thoughts, of ‘I’m done. I’m going to close.’ But once I started calming down, I decided I’m going to stay open. It’s total (expletive) what they did. By the time I got through the initial shock, I looked at the fact that my family is OK, and it’s only my store that was hurt.”

Both Crowder and Berrios agree the setbacks have been a struggle, but each said it is the people within the card collecting community who keep them coming back.

“There are some people who are coming in and I think they’re buying stuff to be supportive even more than because they want it,” Crowder said. “That’s what the good part of this community is all about. That’s why we do this. I just have to remember that.”

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