Two men broke into the Abbins Thrift Store in Riverside twice last Thursday, taking away thousands of dollars worth of low-income merchandise and the owner’s personal collection of Kobe Bryant memorabilia.
Their crimes were caught on security footage, the men broke in around 2:30 a.m. and stole high-end shoes and other items, according to owner Alex Villarreal.
“They ripped off about 30 shirts that we had – some that were autographed,” he said.
They returned a few hours later in daylight, filling garbage bags with as many items as they could.
Villarreal say one of the thieves was even wearing a pair of shoes they stole in the first burglary.
The pair grabbed around $8,000 worth of merchandise and Villarreal say their biggest loss is their memories of Mamba, or Kobe Bryant.
A huge fan of Bryant himself, Villarreal spent years hoarding expensive shirts which he displayed in the store.
“It wasn’t for sale…it was just to show that I’m a big Kobe fan, always have been and it’s something I can’t replace and I personally got when matches,” he said.
The burglaries dealt such a blow to the business that Villarreal considered closing it down permanently.
That was until community members heard about the theft and started flooding the store over the weekend.
“Just to show support…just to try and buy random things to keep us afloat…because they don’t want to see us go,” he said.
Villarreal opened its store in February 2021 at the height of the pandemic.
“Maybe it wasn’t the best time to do it, but we did it with good intentions to help our community,” he said.
The husband and father of two said the aim of opening the store was to offer cheaper items to people in financial difficulty.
“If someone gives something that we haven’t paid for, we’ll give it away for free instead of charging for it,” he said.
Now, that community he opened his store for has returned his appreciation to him and his business.
Villarreal discovered some of his stolen items were being sold online, and Riverside Police said they were investigating the lead.