Thefts strike Coupeville artists hard

A string of burglaries that struck Coupeville last week is leaving artists struggling to replace work that takes days and even weeks to produce.

The Penn Cove Gallery lost thousands of dollars worth of inventory to the burglars who hit five other businesses in the historic town over the course of one evening.

“It’s a definite kick in the stomach,” jewelry maker Beverly McQuary said. She creates glass and silver jewelry that she sells out of the 20-member artist cooperative on Front Street. She estimated her losses alone at nearly $4,000.

But the time it takes to produce her art also makes it difficult to replace stolen  jewelry. She said it’s a time-consuming process to create her artwork, which includes striking and embellishing glass before using silver or copper to make her necklaces, bracelets and earrings. She had around 70 pieces on display at the gallery.

The break-in the night of Aug. 2 came less than two weeks before the largest artist celebration on Whidbey Island, the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, which takes place this weekend, Aug. 13 and 14.

“I’ve been creating like crazy to fill the empty space in the gallery,” McQuary said.

The quiet town was rattled when burglars broke into six businesses on Front Street and South Main Street. In addition to the Penn Cove Gallery, the Honey Bear, Beyond the Sea, Big Rock Designs, Coupeville Florist and Sally’s Garden were broken into.

McQuary said she had previously photographed all of her stolen merchandise and she is sharing those photos with police.

She wasn’t the only artist who is working to replace stolen items.

Artists Tom and Mary Alice Sterling lost engraved knives and woven baskets as a result of the burglary.

Mary Alice Sterling said most people don’t realize the thought that goes into an art piece before work even begins.

“We tried to have something new and special to kickoff the season,” Sterling said, adding that the festival attracts art lovers who continue visiting Coupeville throughout August and into September.

She said the community has been extremely supportive since the thefts. People have been stopping by saying they’ll keep an eye out on the Internet to see if they spot any missing merchandise.

“It’s heart warming to see people do that in their lives,” Sterling said.

Other works of art stolen included Native American carvings, pottery and scarves.

Oak Harbor based potter Dan Ishler lost about half of his inventory to the thieves. He said it could have been worse. Several of his ceramic cars were stacked next to the door.

“I’m sure if they had more time, they would have taken more,” Isler said.

He said he has already added replacement pottery items at the gallery in time for the festival weekend.

Coupeville Town Marshal Dave Penrod said information is still being gathered about the string of burglaries and officers are still collecting an inventory of the items stolen.

If you have information about the break-ins, contact the Coupeville Marshal’s Office by calling ICOM at 679-9567.


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