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(Video) Owners 'gutted' after man steals from struggling Burnaby store during COVID

Neurodivergent business owners have faced one challenge after another since signing lease weeks before 2020 lockdown
Ava and Steve Gosling have had a “hell of the year” since launching their small artisan jewelry  boutique in Burnaby in the middle of a worldwide pandemic – so it was especially gutting when a man walked in Saturday and made off with a couple of small but valuable items.

The couple posted a video of the incident, caught from multiple angles, in an effort to get the items back.

The cameras capture a man masked in a black bandana outside Moonstone on Hastings Street. He peers through the display window, then enters the store and beelines to the window display before Steve asks if he can help him.

Steve told the NOW the man then gestured with a water bottle and asked if the store had a water cooler.

When Steve said no, the man left quickly.

After he was gone, Steve said he even felt guilty that he hadn’t just filled his water bottle at the sink.

“To have felt guilty that I didn’t help him out with water more while he was stealing from me, that feels like ass,” Steve said.

Steve said he discovered the theft when he was closing up shop and noticed two two-inch solid sterling silver animal skull pieces (one of a stag and the other of a bear) were not in their spot in the display window.

“I felt gutted that somebody could do that knowing how small businesses are being impacted right now,” Ava said. “I was trying not to take it personally.”

Ava is the “creative force” behind Moonstone, according to Steve.

Both Steve and Ava are on the autism spectrum, and that has been both a driving force behind the business and a source of challenges.

Ava, who describes herself online as a “neurodivergent goblin,” said the business sprang partly from her penchant for collecting things and partly from a compulsion to work with her hands and create.

She used to paint, she said, and worked for a short time as a graphic designer at a video game company, but an autoimmune disorder put an end to that career.

She turned to creating jewelry from rocks and beads and other materials.

“I like to refer to myself as a goblin just because I really like to collect shiny objects,” she said. “I guess it’s a whole thing with people who just collect rocks and sticks. Goblins like to hoard these little treasures, and I really like little treasures.”

After some time selling her wares online and at trade shows, the Goslings decided to open a brick and mortar store and entered a lease for the Hastings Street space in February, just weeks before COVID hit.

A contractor they were working with then fell through in the middle of the lockdown – and they couldn’t find anyone else to give them a quote, let alone complete the work while the province was shut down.

They didn’t manage to open until October and have struggled to stay afloat ever since.

That’s what has made the theft from the small business so galling, they said.

“There’s a lot of businesses that are struggling,” Ava said, “so this is just a really awful time to be doing this. There’s never a good time to be doing this, but it’s just extra awful right now.”

Ava said she hopes the two stolen pieces will be recovered and the thief will be prevented from hitting any other small businesses.

Burnaby RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Kalanj said the pandemic has exposed businesses to a greater risk of such thefts.

“It’s harder for people to protect themselves against thieves because every person is wearing a mask,” he said. “A lot of the thieves are trying to cover up anyway, but, in general, people would notice them more; whereas now I think it’s harder for people to recognize that there’s a thief in their midst.”

Anyone with information about the stolen items is asked to call Burnaby RCMP. Cite file number 21-12533.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor