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Break-ins threaten Board Shop

After 10 break-ins and more than $15,000 in losses, the Kitsap Board Shop — the region’s only indoor skate park — may be forced to close its doors.

Manager Eric Guizzetti calls it being “robbed out of business.”

Guizzetti and KBS’s other employees are trying to keep the business afloat, but all said it’s proven nearly impossible to halt the wave of break-ins, which have been occurring since the business opened a little more than a year and a half ago.

Every time, they said, the burglars used a different method — from hiding in the park until the employees left for the night to physically battering their way into the building using sledgehammers.

“They’ve gotten in every way they can,” said employee Ian Wilhelm, who was the one to discover the June 1 break-in, in which $5,000 in merchandise was stolen. “One time they broke into the Beachcomber (next door) and came right through the drywall. They never take the stuff that’s worth money — my tools and stuff. (But) they take enough to make a difference.”

The employees admit KBS — housed in an old department store space next to South Kitsap Helpline on Bay Street — is vulnerable. There are too many good places for people to hide, they said, and the building has no security system — KBS can’t afford one.

“We get a lot of suggestions,” said employee Danielle Rimbert. “If we could afford a better security system, don’t you think we would have bought one a long time ago?”

The employees are fighting back, though. They’ve enlisted the help of their regular clients to track down the thieves and discourage further theft.

Most of those who frequent KBS, and its companion all-ages music venue, The Hole at KBS, express contempt for the thieves and anger at the possible effects of the burglaries.

“I hope you find them and beat them severely,” said one KBS supporter who stopped by Monday afternoon.

Wilhelm said the latest burglary was tracked to a group of junior high students, who were seen handing out the stolen merchandise — everything from clothing to backpacks to skateboard decks and hardware — at their school. He said he also heard the culprits threw a good portion of the stolen goods off the end of a pier and stashed even more behind their houses. However, Wilhelm said, the fact the boys are minors has made it difficult to prosecute. In fact, he said, many at KBS suspect most of the culprits are preteens — kids who likely skate at KBS.

“I don’t think they really understand,” Wilhelm said. “If this place closes down, where are they going to go?”

Wilhelm said many parents drop their kids off at KBS because there’s no other safe place to skateboard or rollerblade. The only other nearby skate park is off Jackson Avenue, and Wilhelm said that park is usually “trashed.” KBS enforces a helmet rule and will rent helmets to kids who don’t have their own, which Wilhelm said is also important to parents.

“There’s nothing for kids to do (in Port Orchard) except roam around and get into trouble,” Wilhelm said.

Rimbert agreed: “We just want a safe place for kids in town to call their own.”

Right now, the KBS coffers are down to practically nothing. The latest break-in occurred right after a stock shipment came in, which meant the store had to buy all new stock. In order to make sure they had skateboard decks to offer kids, the employees said they had to buy the replacements from a distributor at more than twice the normal cost.

Guizzette, however, said he refuses to raise prices to make up the difference. Like every other employee at KBS, Guizzette is a skateboarder himself and said he knows how difficult it is to afford equipment and find good, cheap places to skate.

“Everybody else shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of a few,” he said.

Guizzette is planning to offer a skate camp this summer, which he hopes will generate enough revenue to keep KBS afloat. The employees have started locking up merchandise at nights now, and are looking into ways to at least lock down the retail area, even if they can’t adequately secure the entire building. Guizzette is optimistic, but said he doesn’t think the business will survive another break-in.

“If we do good business, we won’t close down,” he said. “If we do bad business, we will.”

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