Some customers offered hugs and condolences. Others doubled their orders and said they would be back soon.
The stream of customers entering Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice on Monday offered a sense of “normality” to owner Nazmul Haque two days after a thief broke in and made off with around $600,000 worth of produce.
“To lose 10 or 15 years of work overnight is devastating. I don’t know if I’ll recover emotionally,” Haque said.
The extent of the loss was apparent on Monday. The drawers normally filled with bottles were empty, as was most of the store’s 55-degree wine cellar.
Shattered glass from a broken display case had been swept away and a 5-by-3-foot hole in the cellar roof had been patched with plywood.
At around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, security cameras captured a figure – apparently a man, wearing a mask, black hoodie and red billed baseball cap – entering the store’s parking lot in a white van to which he missing a license plate.
The person climbed over storage containers to reach the roof of the store. A hole was drilled in the ceiling directly into the wine cellar, and the thief lowered himself with a rope, according to Haque.
In nearly four hours, the thief had emptied most of the cellar.
The burglar took many of the store’s most expensive Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, according to manager Nick Martinelle.
A stolen bottle of Chateau Petrus 2016, for example, retailed for $4,500. Also taken are brands from the Corton-Charlemagne family, including a 1994 vintage, a 2008 Bonneau du Martray, a 2018 Louis Latour, a 2019 Domaine Roulot and a 2020 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. The value of each of these bottles varied from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
“It took me years to put this collection together,” Haque said.
Haque estimated that 60% of his high-end stock was stolen, a total loss of around $600,000.
“I’ve been working on a list of missing bottles, and that price might go up by the time I’m done,” he said.
Some valuables were spared, including a 1975 Glenfiddich “Rare Collection” single malt whiskey worth $9,000.
Martinelle said the basement was filled with stackable crates that the burglar used to enter and exit the store early in the morning.
Some security cameras and sensors were disabled by an unknown party earlier in the week, he added.
A sensor was triggered at 4 a.m., leading the security company to call Haque’s house. Haque said he did not hear the call and answered when he received a text from security at 4:15 a.m. He was at the store within 15 minutes and thinks he may have prevented the burglar to take more.
“There were a few abandoned crates on the roof, which makes me think he heard me coming,” Haque said.
Haque and Martinelle said they hoped to complete a list of stolen valuables to distribute to local wholesalers, buyers and auction houses.
“There are unscrupulous buyers who will buy a bottle of wine without asking questions,” Martinelle said. “We just hope that if the wine arrives, we will be alerted.”
A client said on Monday the burglary was an “inside job”. Haque said he wouldn’t speculate.
“We’re going to take all the evidence to law enforcement and let them do their job,” he said.
He said, however, that “whoever did this knew the store’s scheme very well”.
Easily accessible bottles – including recognizable but cheaper offerings like Dom Pérignon champagne – remained intact, while more secure drawers were cleaned out.
“It’s been difficult,” Haque said, adding that he will speak with an insurance adjuster on Wednesday. “Fortunately, the community came out to support us.”
Haque said 200 people stopped by on Sunday, about twice as many as usual. Another 150 had fallen by 4 p.m. Monday.
Among them was Rebekah Haraczka, 45, a Venice resident and longtime customer, who felt compelled to send her best wishes to Haque and his employees.
“It’s a community store that has served us well, and it’s heartbreaking that this is happening,” said Haraczka, who bought a $15 red. “I just want to help.”
Fellow resident Elisa Meyer said Lincoln Fine Wines has been a welcoming place since she moved to Venice in 2003.
Meyer intended to pick up a single bottle of wine as part of his monthly wine club allowance. Instead, she walked away with four.
“I believe it is important to help such a wonderful company,” she said. “They didn’t deserve this.”