By Lisa Kava
As Thanksgiving approaches, Jennie Dundas, owner of the Blue Marble Ice Cream shop on Broadway and 97th Street, is trying to hold onto the values of the holiday. But it’s hard after the month she’s had. In November, Blue Marble was robbed twice, shoplifted three times, and vandalized, she said.
The odd thing is the robber never asked for more than $20. “It’s important to me to remain positive and keep an attitude of gratitude,” Dundas told West Side Rag. “I can’t imagine what my life situation would have to be in order to risk prison for $20 or less. I feel compassion for those in our community who face these struggles.”
While Dundas, who lives a block away from the store, feels unsettled, concerned, and has lost employees as a result of the recent events, she is trying to remain optimistic. She is grateful for her community and neighbors, who displayed an outpouring of support after she posted her story on social networking site Nextdoor. “It’s been amazing. We have had over 160 kind and positive comments. People have been coming into the store to show support,” she told West Side Rag.
On Monday November 8th, at 3:42 PM, a man entered the Blue Marble shop, simulated a gun in his pocket, and told the counter staff to give him $2 in cash, according to Dundas. After the staff member gave him $2, the man asked for another $12. The employee called 911.
On Wednesday, November 10th, at 3:49 PM, the man returned looking somewhat different, Dundas said. “The first time he wore sunglasses and had his hair pulled back. The second time, he did not wear sunglasses and his hair was down.” He demanded $20. Dundas called 911. Police arrived and arrested 31-year-old Joshua Tirado, charging him with robbery and petit larceny. A police spokesperson said he lives nearby. Tirado was released on his own recognizance after the district attorney asked that he be given supervised release. His next court date is December 16.
Tirado’s defense attorney did not respond to West Side Rag’s questions about the charges.
The following Monday November 15th at 4:15 PM, Dundas says he returned. “I had already told the counterperson that if he returns, she should go to a safe place in the store and I would handle it,” Dundas said. “He loitered in the store briefly but when he saw nobody at the counter he turned and left.”
There have been other incidents too that have disturbed the staff. On both Saturday November 13th and Tuesday November 16th a shoplifter entered the store, took items from the retail shelf and fled. Dundas is not sure if this was the same shoplifter or two different people. And on Thursday November 11th at 9 PM, someone riding a Citi Bike threw a Pepsi bottle at the door of the store.
On Tuesday, November 23rd, shortly after 9 a.m., the original robber returned to the store, “asked for a glass of water, grabbed a lemon loaf and walked out,” Dundas said. She immediately called the police, but he had fled by the time they arrived.
While none of Dundas’ employees has been injured, two have resigned because of safety concerns, she said. “Even though the incidents were non-violent, the cash robber threatened with a gun in pocket which was pretty traumatic,” she said.
Dundas has closed the store early on many days because of lack of staff, and because employees are fearful, she explained.
A former actress, who has appeared in film and television, Dundas co-founded Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn in 2007, as an ice cream that would use the highest quality organic ingredients, sourced from organic farms and fair-trade purveyors. Dundas opened Blue Marble Ice Cream’s Upper West Side store in March 2021, after moving to the neighborhood herself from Brooklyn.
From the outset, Dundas valued community. “When we opened, I wanted to express gratitude to the community that was welcoming us in, and to contribute positively to difficult issues facing our city, like rising homelessness and poverty. We decided to contribute 1% of sales to Brotherhood Sister Sol, (https://brotherhood-sistersol.org), a Harlem-based youth development organization,” Dundas said.
At the moment, community and compassion feel more important than ever to Dundas. “Please frequent the store, please know that your support will enable us to make it through this extremely challenging time,” she wrote to neighbors. “Thieves target an empty store so the more customers we have the more you are all fighting local crime.”