Lulabelle’s Sweet Shop is a sunny, small shop on the 800 block of Upshur Ave. If it weren’t for the front door, you would not be able to tell it was broken into twice in the last few weeks.
On April 8, Julie Wineinger arrived to work in the morning to see her store had been broken into. Just a few weeks prior, on March 22, they were also broken into. The first time the burglar took the cash register and the iPad that controlled the shop’s transactions. The second time nothing was stolen, but their front door was broken beyond repair.
According to Trulia, burglaries are the second most frequent crimes, after thefts, in the last year in the Petworth area. Trulia reports there have been 79 counts of burglary and 362 counts of theft in the past year. The numbers have been on the rise in the past year.
Wineinger opened the shop in December 2017 after hearing that people in the neighborhood wanted ice cream options. “One of the very first things that people almost always said when asked what they wanted in the community was ice cream,” Wineinger says.
The space the shop currently inhabits was a revolving door for other establishments. Many businesses would come and go, but never stay for too long. Wineinger thought it would be best for the community if she occupied the space with something people wanted.
Wineinger not only sells sweets and ice cream, but has a lunch and breakfast menu and coffee. Many of the ingredients she uses are local. The ice cream is provided by Taharka Brothers in Baltimore and Lost Sock Coffee, “just a couple blocks north from here on Kennedy Street.” Wineinger says not only was it a logical decision to keep her products local, but also that it helped that the product options close to home were so great.
Emanuella Enemor, a new resident of Petworth, has visited Lulabelle’s a few times and appreciates what the shop has to offer. “I have only lived here for a year, but I have come here for the ice cream more times than I can think. It’s like no other,” she says. Enemor also noted that often when she comes into the shop, there are people there doing an array of things. “People come in and do work or chat with friends. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Wineinger says being burglarized was not as frustrating the first time as it was the second time. “I’m no stranger to things happening. The second time you definitely felt a little bit defeated the second time. It wasn’t so easy to brush off the second time.” She says it happened again while still recovering from the first break-in, which is in part what made it more difficult. But Wineinger does acknowledge that the whole event ended up being sort of a bright spot in the end.
The shop re-opened on February 5, when they expanded the shop’s offerings by offering breakfast and lunch options. Wineinger added these options per the request of shop-goers in the community. She also prides herself on knowing everybody in the neighborhood, which she believes is the reason for the continued support of the community. “When people know the owner, they shop even more because they feel into it even more.”
When Wineinger and her staff discovered the break-in the second time, it was a Monday afternoon, a day that Lulabelle’s is not usually open. They had not noticed anything was wrong since they were not open. Wineinger decided to open that afternoon to raise funds for the oversized antique door. She admits now she did not thoroughly think the decision through. “I was expecting it to be busy, but it was probably four times busier than I anticipated.” She feels her wrist still hurts to this day. There was a continuous line down the street during for almost the entire five hours the store was open, Wineinger says.
Wineinger says she does not feel any resent toward the burglar. “This was just a desperate person; they didn’t even take anything. This was someone who was coming in trying to get the easiest thing they could get and walking out.”
Wineinger also says she is grateful that the person that broke-in did not do so during shop hours. She says she does not feel unsafe after the proceedings, but has witnessed an increase in police presence around Upshur Ave.
“We’ve been having some issues so I think it would be good to have some police presence. But they’re not issues you would want somebody to get arrested for,” she said.
In an email, ANC Commissioner for 4C07, where Lulabelle’s is, Kim Varzi, stated, “Our MOCUR, or representative from the Mayor’s office, was going to get in touch with Julie and other business owners in that block to talk about security.”
In the meantime, Wineinger says she is just trying to get everything back to normal. They are working on getting the door fixed and more secure and have placed cameras in the store.