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Community Rallies To Support Local Business After Burglary

Judy Tacyn
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December 5, 2017

While the rest of Pasadena slept during the early morning hours of November 8, the security system surveillance camera at Bay Area Computers & Hobbies captured video of a near-devastating crime: A burglar broke through the front door of the Pine Grove Village shop with a cinderblock and made off with $12,500’s worth of merchandise and other items.

“This has caused our family a lot of mental issues, such as loss of sleep and nonstop worry,” said owner Chris Mathews. “Not only did the store lose a lot of product, but we also had personal belongings taken, including our son’s controller, an employee’s personal on-road car and a customer’s car as well.”

But word spread quickly among Mathews’ loyal customer base, some of whom come from as far as the Eastern Shore to enjoy the camaraderie and employee knowledge that the specialty shop and racetrack has to offer remote-control (RC) vehicle enthusiasts. “Chris is one of those guys who watches out for you — the customer first, himself second,” explained one of his customers, Rick Collins. “He takes care of his customers like you’re a family. … When we heard about the break-in, and the cost that's associated with it, I decided to donate toward getting the building sealed back up from the broken door. If I was in a situation and needed the help, he would have been there.”

Collins wasn’t the only one. Communicating via the store’s Facebook group, which has more than 1,600 members, the RC community stepped up to ensure that Mathews was able to recover from the burglary.

“We didn’t ask for a thing,” Mathews said of the outpouring of financial support. “I posted the picture of the door and damages, then went on to dealing with the police that came. Before I knew it the members of our Facebook group flooded our PayPal account on their own!”

For many of those donors, Bay Area Computers & Hobbies is a place of community. “Chris and Mesha [Matthews’ wife, Michelle] are more than just business owners,” said Donnie Marcey. “They give of themselves, sometimes thanklessly, every day of their lives. They are both genuinely good people and will help anybody, both with RC-related problems or any other problems they are having.”

Keith Dressel recalled how he and his son stopped by Bay Area Computers & Hobbies on a whim and purchased a remote-control truck to race on Friday nights. The first night they raced the truck, a part broke, but another customer stepped in to help out. “It was at that point that I realized there was something really different about this place,” he said. “Not only was the staff great but the fellow customers cared enough to make sure my son’s truck was ready for the next race.”

Dressel and his son began to frequent the shop regularly and fell in love with the hobby, the staff and the family-friendly atmosphere they enjoyed every time they went to race. “Chris and Mehsa Mathews have created a very special place,” he said. “They have built a business where children and adults alike can share a common interest.”

Chris Bate also saw the effect Bay Area Computers & Hobbies had on his family, particularly his sons, Michael and Justin. “I donated $100 because Chris and the guys are always there when you need them,” he said. “They are passionate about helping anyone that comes through the door. … It is one of the few still-standing mom-and-pop places that you can go into, not spend a dime and still be treated like a person that spent a million dollars before you.”

The donations helped replace the front glass and cover the insurance deductible. Mathews is now saving to have bomb-blast safe glass installed. A copy of the surveillance video was given over to the police, and a suspect has been arrested and charged.

Now, business continues as usual at 8583 Fort Smallwood Road, but Mathews has a much deeper appreciation of his customer base’s loyalty. “I’ve never in my life seen anything so incredibly kind,” he said. “Our customers have shown us an extreme amount of support. We are one big family. I’d like to thank our customers for all their continued support.”

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