SALISBURY, N.C. -- A Salisbury business owner is closing his doors after four robberies in the last year.
Jerry Burkhart, 72, owns the Highway 29 Indoor Flea Market. Burkhart says he feels like he is risking his life by staying in business. He also says the hopelessness he sees in some people, who then turn to crime, is another factor in his decision, despite his best attempts to uplift every one of his customers.
“Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.” That’s the motto under which Burkhart says he opened the store last year. His intent was helping struggling families survive by offering all sorts of common items for just a few dollars. Customers can also trade items to get what they want.
His 28-point business plan doesn't make one mention of money.
"You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give,” Burkhart said while reading the plan.
The problem is what people take.
Burkhart has been robbed four times, and says he's had more money stolen than he's earned.
"I honestly feel that being here is risking my life,” he said.
Christopher Lee McCrary, 19, and his brother William Jeffrey McCrary, 23, are charged with robbing Burkhart’s store on February 26. James Trembley, 41, is also charged, records show.
Burkhart was in the back preparing his nightly deposit when he says Christopher McCrary kicked in the back door.
"He was almost across my lap, I tackled him, but he was able to reach the money, it was scattered all over the floor,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart says the teen hit him in the head with a pipe.
"I was bleeding and didn't even know how bad I was hurt,” he said.
Burkhart says he knows both of the brothers because they are customers. He had their address and called police, who turned around and arrested them.
Burkhart says other incidents include someone taking his cash register and the money out of his pocket.
It's a position Burkhart just doesn't want to be in any longer, having to fight young men over his money, or wondering who might be casing his store and worrying about his safety and his deposits.
He’s closing the store because too many negatives outweigh the positives.
"It is sad people would come in here and take advantage of an elderly man,” said customer Lorie Hill.
Burkhart isn’t sure when the store will close, but says it will be soon, once he sells most of his merchandise.