Anglo oleh to keep fitness shop open after burglary

Encouraged by outpouring of support, Chaim Wizman vows to continue operating his store “On the Burma Road” near Beit Shemesh.

By
January 29, 2012 02:19
2 minute read.
Chaim Wizman (left) shows a bicycle to a customer

Bike store 311. (photo credit: Al Derech Burma)

 
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An American Israeli has decided to keep his bicycle and fitness store open following a burglary two weeks ago in which thieves made off with over NIS 350,000 in merchandise.

When Chaim Wizman arrived at his store near Beit Shemesh, Al Derech Burma (“On the Burma Road”) last Sunday, the New York native was shocked to discover that the entire stock of full suspension bikes (costing more than NIS 15,000 each), hundreds of pairs of custom-made running shoes, sunglasses, GPS watches, and a wide range of other running and biking equipment had been cleaned out hours earlier.

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Because of its remote location in the Judean Hills, no insurance company would cover the store unless he hired a full-time security guard, an expense Wizman said he could not afford.

Wizman, who made aliya 16 years ago and lives with his wife and six children in Beit Shemesh, said he considered closing shop after the burglary, but changed his mind following the outpouring of support from his customers, many of them from the Anglo community in the Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh areas. In addition to regular customers, he also received phone calls and e-mails from people who saw the message he posted about the robbery on Facebook.

“People have been incredible and I was overwhelmed to learn how much the operation meant to so many people. Which is an encouraging thing after you see all these years of work go down the drain in just 15 minutes,” Wizman said last week.

The former attorney opened the specialty running and biking store two years ago, after he became a long-distance runner a decade earlier.

From the beginning he said it was important for the store to be Shomer Shabbat, largely due to the needs of its clientele, but also because, in his words, “some things, like religion, are more important than money.”



The store sponsors a running club called the Beit Shemesh Runners, who Wizman said posted impressive running times, and not just for a group of 40-something Orthodox Jews.

Located on the legendary Burma Road outside Beit Shemesh, the store serves as a launching point for trips in the Judean Hills. Wizman said the store has been a sort of “destination outlet,” without any foot traffic, where the only customers who arrive are those who already plan to shop there.

He thinks that a group of highly professional Beduin thieves staked the store out for weeks before the robbery, and that by the time he discovered it, the merchandise was probably already in the West Bank.

Not all the merchandise was gone for good, however.

Hours after the robbery a Breslov Hassid arrived at his store with four bicycles he found in a nearby forest, where he was performing his hitbodedut solitary prayers.

Wizman said the bikes had been dumped by the thieves, who were probably intending to return soon when they had room for them.

Opening a specialty fitness and biking store selling high-end custom equipment far from any retail areas sounds risky. Nonetheless, Wizman said the store has been profitable, which has encouraged him to remain open.

He has taken some new precautions since the robbery, including installing security cameras, but said that every store is vulnerable and “this is just par for the course.”

“I think everything happens for a reason. I'm a religious person so I think that God does everything for a reason,” Wizman said.

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