Published: Thursday, May 1st, 2014
Claw, Antler & Hide owners Gary and Janice Gruber had the worst Easter Sunday a person can have two weekends ago, when they discovered that someone had broken into their Mt. Rushmore Road shop and stolen $35,000 in merchandise.
Gary Gruber said he went to the store about 9 a.m. that day and noticed the spring on the building’s back door was broken. He didn’t put much thought into it, however, but noticed light was pouring into his building where the skylight was—or had been. That’s when he noticed the fan above the skylight was hanging and realized someone had broken into the building. Aâ��look around the shop quickly showed him he had been burglarized.
The list of items taken is staggering—virtually every fur in the store, from buffalo and wolf hides to gray fox and wolverine hides.
“They took about four fifths of my fur,”â��Gruber said.
They also took a coat, four dozen black deer skin gloves, a bear skull, elk cow skulls, pouches, fur hats, tomahawks and knives. Whoever stole items took the time to remove the skylight with tools and disable the buzzer at the rear of the building, probably believing it was an alarm. All this leads Gruber to believe whoever the perpetrator was had come into the store beforehand to case the building.
“I just don’t understand. Why would they want to steal furs?” Gruber asked. “Iâ��had Tony Ramer’s expensive sculptures in here and we had expensive mounts. They didn’t take anything like that.”
Gruber also discovered an elk hide lying behind the building, which leads him to believe those responsible piled their stolen goods out back before loading them into a vehicle and driving away. Most of the clothing items taken were in women’s sizes and small men’s sizes.
Although insurance will cover the cost of the stolen items, Gruber said he can’t take the insurance money and quickly replace the stolen furs. He buys those furs in the winter and then goes through the process of drying them out, smoking and tanning them.
“They have taken half my wages away for the year. Iâ��can’t just go out and get it again,” he said. “Basically I’m sitting all summer with nothing to sell as far as furs go.”
Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said that wasn’t the only burglary that took place during the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. A car was broken into and ransacked near the Women Escaping a Violent Environment Shelter, and another was broken into on Crook Street, with a chain saw and jewelry taken out of it. Wheeler said it is too early to say whether all the burglaries are related.
Wheeler said the Custer County Sheriff’s Department is actively pursuing the case and the department is working to get the word of the burglaries out to the appropriate places in case any of it begins to show up for sale. Anyone with information on any of the burglaries is encouraged to call the sheriff’s department at 673-8146. In addition, the Grubers are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft at their store.
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