Northland small business owner at wits’ end over theft

Himanshu Sharma is at his wits’ end after his cafe business was targeted in a burglary. Photo / Tania Whyte

A small business owner in Northland is at the end of his tether after falling victim to crime despite closing down a dairy and opening a coffee shop in order to avoid being robbed.

Himanshu Sharma, co-owner of the Columbus Coffee cafe situated in the Mitre 10 building in Porowini Ave, Whangārei, is seriously contemplating shutting up shop and working somewhere as an employee rather than suffering at the hands of criminals.

A cash register in his cafe containing an undisclosed amount of cash was ripped out and taken away just before midnight on Friday together with a number of coffee cards and keys, but no damage was done.

The theft was discovered when a cash sale came through on Saturday morning.


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“For five minutes after the discovery, I was pacing between the front counter and the kitchen, not knowing what to do. I had to change the keys and four locks. All up, I lost between $2000 and $3000,” Sharma said.

It’s not the first time he’s suffered losses while running a business.

Convenience stores he ran in central Whangārei prior to opening the Columbus Cafe about three years ago had been targeted on a number of occasions over the past six years.

Sharma said nothing has changed in terms of crime against businesses in these tough times. He employs 12 people.


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“How long before I decide it’s better for me to leave the business and work elsewhere? I am close to reaching that point. My main aim of opening up a business was to give locals jobs, rather than get a job. But there’s nothing safe now. If they can steal from a cafe at night, tomorrow they’ll come in and steal during the day.

“Then they’ll go into clothes shops, barbershops, cookie shops.”

A qualified chef, baker and barista, Sharma worked in Countdown stores in the upper North Island until about 2016 before he ventured into business, starting with a dairy.

With the minimum wage and other costs constantly going up, he said the business environment was “really tough” out there.

He reported the theft on the police 105 non-emergency line and spoke to a police officer in the cafe on Saturday.

A police spokesperson confirmed CCTV footage was being reviewed as part of an investigation into the burglary.

The theft is the latest in a string of Northland businesses being targeted by criminals.

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