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Malden shop owner under robbery siege gets help to stay open

Posted by Marcia Dick  April 11, 2012 05:04 PM

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When Dharam Jain's Malden convenience store was robbed twice in four days, once in broad daylight, he was ready to close up shop for good.

Jain's two employees quit, and the shopkeeper, 69, was left to run the Malden Mini Market with his wife and nephew.

"It was too much stress," said Jain, who has run the store at 539 Main St. for 12 years, and was ready to call it quits. "Business is not that good. I'm trying to survive."

But Thursday Jain will open -- and stay that way for now -- after an overnight blitz of volunteers helped him revamp the store's layout to improve safety.

"We said, 'If you decide to stay, we want to help you,'" said Kevin Duffy, the business liaison in Mayor Gary Christenson's office.

In a few days, Duffy drew enough support from local businesses who offered their time, skills, and materials to revamp the corner store in the hopes that brighter lights, clear signage, and a new floor layout could help prevent another hold-up. A half-dozen Malden High School students got involved, too, and helped Jain pack up his shelves Wednesday before the remodeling.

Previously, the narrow retail store was difficult to watch over, Jain and Duffy said. Clerks had no clear view of the door, and the dusty front windows were completely covered with advertisements. Aisles were narrow, and shoplifting -- let alone armed robbery -- was becoming more frequent, Jain said.

"Everyone's kind of banding together to just not accept this as the way it is, so we can come up with ways to prevent this from happening again," Christenson said in a phone interview.

Now the city is organizing a workshop for other store owners to educate them about preventing future robberies, and to give the proprietors a chance to communicate with the city about the small business community's needs.

Meanwhile, the city awaits the hiring of four new police officers in May. Christenson has staked his first term on moving government center, revitalizing downtown Malden, and reducing crime in the city of 59,000. One of the four officers is slated to work as a downtown beat cop, the mayor said.

So far, police have charged one man, Steven Garrett, 43, of Winthrop, for one of the Malden robberies, while they continue to search for suspects in the other hold-up.

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