A break-in heard ’round the world
Broken glass will hardly derail Just Trains after an April 28 predawn break-in at the Concord store that serves niche hobby needs of local railroad enthusiasts.
If it’s not COVID-19, it’s something else, but Jim Anthony’s loyal customer base will enable him to get past even this latest setback.
“In the long run, (the perpetrators) took something that will have no value to them but has value to others. And they will have no understanding of that. For that, I feel sorry for them,’’ said Anthony, who took over Just Trains five years ago and has had the train bug for more than five decades.
Almost $15,000 lost
Anthony estimates the losses to the store at 5650 Imhoff Dr. will be near $15,000 between the damage to the front door, the display cases, and merchandise stolen and damaged.
Three-quarters of what thieves made off with were items on consignment that he was selling for other hobbyists, and the balance includes dozens of locomotives and other rolling stock like passenger cars, freight cars and cabooses that are pulled by the locomotives. An initial report from his insurance company is all losses will be covered.
Support first came just locally. But within a day, messages arrived from across the United States and even globally from folks asking how they can help.
“An Australian supplier will be sending us product,” said Anthony.
The store has images showing at least one person entering the store while others stayed outside. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office investigation is continuing.
The suspects knew what they were going after as they made a bee line for a display case that contained mostly brass locomotives, including one piece valued at $2,700.
Just Trains has received unsolicited cash from customers wanting to help. But Anthony said those individuals are getting gift cards so they can support the business in the future.
No matter what happens with the insurance, Anthony said those folks who entrusted him with their consignments will get full payment.
A staff of mini experts
The county’s shelter in place order had started to take its toll on the business ahead of this episode, and Anthony was already dipping into his personal savings and the revenue from his other job as a system architect and consultant to keep the business operating.
While the business could continue operating under a special agreement with the county, its three employees – all over 65 – could not be in the shop. For Anthony, that is a hardship for customers who come in with questions.
“Different staffers have different expertise that they bring to the shop,” he said. “We have members who are good mechanics, and another who has the artistic side.
“It just takes a whole team to bring customer service, and that is what we have provided over the years,” Anthony added.
In the end, Anthony sees more than just the crunched metal that the burglars left behind. In those trains, some of which were vintage, there are stories, dreams and memories he is now trying to salvage.
“In some ways, that hurts more,” he said.
Just Trains is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday by appointment only, in accordance with coronavirus requirements. Customers can schedule appointments to access the store to pick up items. Call 925-685-6566 and leave a voicemail or email email@example.com. Patrons will receive a confirmation of their appointment. Delivery of orders also can be arranged.