A chain and lock secure the southeast entrance to Start Fresh Market while local security professionals upgrade security and repair damages from an early morning robbery last Saturday.

Start Fresh Market in Olde Burien Struck by Early Morning Robbery

By Matt Wendland

The Start Fresh Market in Olde Burien was struck by an early morning robbery last Saturday, leaving the local business and its employees with thousands of dollars of loss and damages just days before Christmas.

The robbery occurred sometime between midnight and 6am on Saturday, December 21. Start Fresh Market is a gluten-free grocery store, bakery and restaurant located on the corner of S.W. 152nd Street and Ambaum Boulevard. While specializing in gluten-free products, Start Fresh maintains a peanut-free restaurant and baking facility and focuses on using local, organic, and/or non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) products whenever possible.

According to store manager Wendy Poston, one or more robbers used metal tools to break through the double doors facing south on S.W. 152nd Street at the entrance to Olde Burien. Next, the thieves are believed to have worked to break into the store’s locked office, causing severe damages. Within the office the thieves were able to locate the store’s safe and somehow remove it, along with a variety of expensive merchandise and alcohol. The results of the break-in were discovered when the first store employees arrived to work later that morning. With breakfast hours starting not long after discover of the robbery, the staff worked to clean up the damages and get ready to serve breakfast. Though the store had yet to install security cameras, police were able to obtain evidence, such as fingerprints, that could lead them to the identity of the criminals. Once police left, the day was full of work from local security professionals there to ensure future break-ins would be deterred.

Following the end of the workday after the break-in, owner of Start Fresh Market, Catherine Barashkoff, said “If there was ever a time local businesses needed the support of their community, this is it.” Ms. Barashkoff first signed the lease on the former Goodie Gumdrops building in 2012 but faced a series of challenges before finally opening the grocery portion of the store in September of 2013. Soon after signing the lease on the primary part of the facility, an opportunity to take over the space next door, formerly B-Town Burgers and Shakes, became available. According to King County records, the building was first erected in 1925 making the structure just short of 90 years old. With the age of the building, according to Barashkoff, came serious construction challenges. "There are significant challenges to revamp an older building instead of tearing it down. Large corporate stores have the ability to come into an area and tear down a building and start over, but what local business has the luxury of building a facility exactly how they need it? If I wanted to go to Southcenter and build a box, I could have done that. But I wanted to be in this community and be a part of it and that means we take what we can get. In this case that was an older building and that brought with it its own challenges... But it’s well worth it to be part of the Olde Burien and Burien community.”

While the total value of the loss and damages is still being determined, it will easily be in the thousands with much of that being in repairing damages and the value of the contents of the safe. What was most frustrating about the robbery according to Barashkoff, was the employee tips that were locked up in the safe. Tips gathered within the bakery and restaurant are gathered each month and then distributed between each of the nearly twenty employees by how many hours they worked within that period of time. Tips for the last month were in the safe ready to be distributed to employees before Christmas. "The most frustrating thing for me is that my staff lost their tips. We distribute the tips each month depending on how many hours each of the employees works. With it being just before Christmas, I hate to think of each of my employees missing some of the money that they already worked so hard for.”

Start Fresh Market will remain open while working to upgrade their security and continuing to repair damages. They will be open their regular business hours on the Monday before Christmas, open till noon on Christmas Eve and be closed Christmas day. On the day following Christmas, the store will return to regular business hours.

Anyone that may have information relevant to this robbery is asked to contact the Burien Police Department by calling 206.296.3311.

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