For almost 30 years, Bob and Tarrel Yee were prepared if and when their Rosedale Grocery in Armstrong was robbed. They share strong feelings on the subject and always kept a baseball bat behind the counter. A few nights ago, Bob finally got to use it.
"One of our younger cashiers was working that night," Tarrel says, adding the girl was quite shaken by the event. Around 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve, a man in his twenties jumped the counter and grabbed cash out of the register. While he was leaned over the till, Bob had a chance to grab the store's aluminum "Louisville Slugger" from its hiding place. Yee came up behind the thief and gave him a good whack on his shoulder.
"He's probably feeling pretty sore right about now," wife Tarrel says.
The thief stopped and bolted for the door with a small amount of cash and Bob in close pursuit, the Slugger firmly gripped in his hand.
The suspect and his wingman, who'd been waiting in a maroon-coloured van outside a business a few blocks away, sped away, followed for a short while by a customer. The two men were seen by witnesses loitering around a nearby business. She believes the men were scoping out the grocery store from afar and perhaps chose to make their move when the store was empty of customers.
What they didn't realize was that the owner was poised to respond. Tarrel says she and her husband have operated the grocery store for nearly thirty years—"too long" she says with a chuckle. She says this is the first time the Slugger has seen the light of day, and that all the employees know where it is.
"Using it is up to them," she says. They don't expect employees to put themselves in harm's way. But for the owners, it's a no-brainer.
"When you're our age...," Tarrel shrugs, smiles, and rolls her eyes.
She longs for the old days when owners could protect their businesses without risking criminal charges themselves. She says once thieves make their getaway, it's that much harder to track them down. The RCMP have arrested a man linked with a different robbery in Enderby, and believed to be responsible for a total of three robberies in the area, including this one. The suspect, an Enderby man, is currently in custody in Kamloops after ramming a stolen van into a cop car.
The RCMP do not encourage employees to take matters such as this into their own hands because it poses a safety hazard. The Yees disagree.
"You have to catch them in the act," Tarrel says. "(They're) just some lazy (individual) who, rather than get a job, would rather steal from people who work hard for their money."
She says many of these individuals are minors who know they'll "get their hand slapped in court" but won't suffer any major sentences. She'd rather teach the criminals a lesson herself.
For now, the Slugger is back waiting in its dark nook until the next time, and the Yees carry on with running their landmark community business. Tarrel says she and her husband make a good team, and jokes about running a business with her loved one.
"That's why I have the bat," she says. "Because I work with my husband."