After two robberies within weeks of one another, Brooklyn jeweler Melissa Joy Manning is feeling like many industry members do after such violations: Angry. Disappointed. Confused as to how such a world where people treat each other this way exists.
That last statement is where Manning is working to make meaning of these robberies, which occurred in February and March. When the same man robbed her boutique—the second time with a female accomplice to help—Manning says she worried first about her employees and then for what she personally needs to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Manning is doing everything expected: She hired a security guard. She is looking at additional methods to protect her staff, who feel as violated as she does. But, most important, Manning says she is talking about what happened in the media and to other jewelers in the hopes of creating lasting change at a higher level.
“There are actionable items I can take and embrace [like adding a security guard] that I am going to do and I am, willingly,” Manning says. “But I’m also going to double down on my philosophy that’s always guided me in my business and in my life, and that’s opening doors and being an ally.
“I’m going to make sure to put my money where my mouth is because it’s the only way I can wrap my head around this and get out of bed in the morning,” Manning adds. “There are so many things that we need to do, together. We’re not going to get them done if we continue to fester, support hate, and be unkind to each other.”
The first robbery occurred Feb. 2 when the suspect came into the store and claimed he was there to buy an anniversary present. After casing the store, he returned, telling an employee that he had a knife, and grabbed an estimated $200,000 worth of gems, according to media reports.
The second robbery happened March 16 with the same man. He had a female accomplice ask for entry to the store, so employees buzzed her in. The man followed quickly behind her and threatened employees with physical harm. He then stole an estimated $50,000 from the Cobble Hill shop. Manning responded by installing new, updated security systems.
That second robbery was like a casual event to the robber, Manning says, noting that the man said “Hi, I’m back,” to the employee. He also came a time when the area police are on a shift change, showing that he understood how to attack stores openly.
“I’m angry not just because of the loss, which is devastating and relatively catastrophic. I’m angry at the emotional damage he’s caused my team,” Manning says. “We now live in a state of anxiety. That we’re all scared. That we don’t know what will happen.”
However, Manning says she won’t let those emotions change her or her business. To that end, she plans on creating actionable plans for her store, her community, and society to change this situation from one of despair to something better.
“In all honesty, I’m not angry so much at [the robber] as I’m angry at the continued divide in our culture. Our complacent acceptance of politicians to make us hate each other,” Manning says. “It’s about us acknowledging each other as human beings. We need a better culture where crime isn’t the only opportunity for many people around us. We all have an obligation to each other, and we’re not meeting that obligation.”
To date, Manning has gone on numerous television stations and talked to media across traditional and jewelry publications to tell her story. Because she spoke openly, Manning says she hopes others can prevent such occurrences in their stores or communities. Plus, other jewelers who had a similar robbery, perhaps with the same suspect, were able to communicate what they experienced to police.
Manning believes this robber targets female-owned or -operated jewelry stores as well, making these crimes even more troubling. Still, she hopes that people will not only rally to help identify this suspect, but that they will realize there are systemic issues that surround crime that need to be addressed in real and substantive ways.
Finding ways to help people with jobs, education, and opportunity won’t be easy—but Manning says she has based her brand and her life on helping others, and she wants to have these conversations and take action.
“I’ve done everything in my power to operate a responsible business in my community, and I’m proud of that,” Manning says. “I do feel tested right now, [but] I know how I want to walk through the world and I’m going to be brave and do it.”
Top: An unidentified male robbed Melissa Joy Manning’s Brooklyn jewelry store twice, a crime that the jewelry designer says has shaken her to her core but also will inspire additional effort for her part to see a better world come out of such crimes. (Photos courtesy of Melissa Joy Manning)
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