CORRECTION: This story was updated to include information about another retailer in Danville that sells tobacco products.
DANVILLE — An employee of Marty’s 1st Stop stood just inside the store when a burglar smashed the glass door with a crowbar last week.
It was the final blow for store owner Marty Beattie who decided the store will cease selling tobacco products.
“The things that these smash and grabs are really going for is cigarettes,” said Beattie, who has owned and operated the store on Route 2 in Danville for nearly 30 years. “We’ve been broken into a few times and every time it’s been for cigarettes.”
Beattie’s decision comes at the same time the state of Vermont changed the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. The new law also played a role in the decision.
“The safety of my employees is number one,” he said. “The next thing is my employees enforcing the law from the 18 year olds to 21 not purchasing cigarettes … the stings have already started.”
Beattie said enforcement officials haven’t been helpful to merchants during the transition into the new age limit.
“Instead of coming in and trying to assist and help, [the state] just wants to come in and sting you and fine you,” he said. “The hard part about the whole thing is it being dumped on the retailer to enforce it.”
By ending tobacco sales as soon as the shelves and racks are empty, Marty’s cashiers won’t have to card for tobacco. “A whole big bag of problems goes away,” said Beattie.
“I was thinking about doing this before the law came into effect, but I said let’s just see how much of a problem it is, and since then we’ve been broken into and my cashiers have had a hard time with some customers,” he said. “I’d rather have my cashiers spend their time bagging groceries and selling soup.”
Employee Darcie Brill, 53, of St. Johnsbury, is happy with her boss’s decision.
“I think it’s a good decision,” she said. “It takes the pressure off the people in the front from possibly selling tobacco to people they shouldn’t.”
Brill was standing next the shelves just inside Marty’s on Aug. 29. It was nearly 4:30 a.m., about an hour before the store opens.
“I was unbundling the newspapers putting them on the shelf right by the door and I heard a slight tap on the glass,” she said. “I just thought it was a deli person tapping to come in. I turned toward the door and as I looked I could just see a figure that appeared to be a crowbar coming down. It came right through the glass. I let out a really terrible scream, and the person just kind of froze for a second and then took off.”
Another employee who was in the back of the store at the time responded to Brill’s screams.
The glass in the door shattered but Brill was not hurt.
“I don’t think they expected anyone to be here,” she said. “I think I scared them as much as they scared me.”
The Vermont State Police is investigating the crime. Brill didn’t get a good look at the burglar. She said the person was a few inches taller than her - she’s 5-foot, 4-inches tall - and was wearing black.
“She’s really been shaken up since,” said Beattie.
He said getting rid of the tobacco should help minimize a person’s desire to break into the store.
“I think it will reduce the danger of break-ins if there’s no tobacco products,” he said. “They’re not going to steal bananas.”
In addition to protecting his workers and eliminating the need to deal with the new tobacco laws, Beattie said it’s a healthy choice to get out of the tobacco-selling business.
“Morally, I don’t like selling tobacco anyways,” said Beattie. “It’s the only product in the store that will kill people that’s legal to sell,” said Beattie.
Sales of tobacco products will end at Marty’s is soon as the shelves and racks are bare.
Beattie said the pressure on merchants who sell tobacco with taxes and the new law change will likely cause some stores to follow his lead and end sales too.
“I’m going to be the first one to jump out,” he said.
He said the loss of tobacco sales at the store is worth it.
“I think the sales that I’m going to sacrifice are going to be worth not having the headache of having to deal with it,” he said. “It’s a high dollar, low margin sale with a lot of baggage,” said Beattie.
There are two other retail locations in Danville that carry tobacco products for sale. One is Hastings Store in West Danville and the other is From Barrell to Bottle in Danville on Route 2 near the intersection with Hill Street. Hastings is about three miles west of Marty’s 1st Stop. From Barrell to Bottle is less than a half mile west of Marty's.
Sharon Emerson, an employee at Hastings, said people under 21 seeking cigarettes shouldn’t bother trying when she’s at the counter.
“I card like crazy,” she said.