The Ajijo Grocery and Convenience Store – the only tenant at the Coombs shops – has again fallen victim to thieves, being broken into for at least the fourth time in under a year early on Wednesday morning (4 March).
Although no cash was stolen this time, Ajit Kumar, who runs the store, said thousands of dollars of cash and goods were stolen the first couple of times thieves broke in.
After being broken into so many times, Mr Kumar says he is thinking of shutting up shop in the lonely complex and moving his business to Tuggeranong or Belconnen.
“When I spoke to the owner as I was signing the lease, I was told that there were other tenants as well, that they would have more tenants soon,” he told Region Media.
“When we started we had hoped that there would be more shops there, but it eventually turned out to not be the case.”
The shop, which is owned by Mr Kumar’s wife Jyotsna, is struggling to make ends meet with the constant break-ins.
“Being a single store in the area we were an easy target because there is no security at all,” Mr Kumar said.
“People who walked in were telling me this when they came into the store. It looks like they are targeting it because it is a lone shop.”
Coombs is a rapidly expanding suburb in Canberra’s south-west with over 6000 residents, many of whom have become increasingly concerned with the lack of infrastructure, and how the owner of the complex, Renato Cervo, has dragged his feet developing the shopping centre.
A community petition was launched in June 2018 by angry residents about the lack of progress on the development, which was uncompleted at the time.
Residents also expressed their annoyance at the lack of facilities in the suburb in an open letter to politicians and the CEO of the Suburban Land Agency.
The development took two years to complete and Mr Kumar and his wife opened the small Indian grocery and convenience store in March 2019.
The family is encouraged by the community to fill a gap in the market, a community he has lauded as exceptionally supportive.
“I was talking to my friends in the area and they think that there should be some shops there in the area. I had a lot of support from the locals in the area [to start the shop],” he said.
“The locals have been quite nice. I can see that they come to my store to support us which is quite a nice thing.”
Mr Kumar says the owner could do more to secure other leases.
“There have been many people talking to me who say they are serious about renting the space, but when it comes to the owner, they are not getting any deals,” he said.
“At some point in time, we may need to pull the plug and move to another place. We are exploring options and I am not sure how long it will take.”