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'It was terrifying': Smoke bombs thrown into small B.C. business

Two smoke bombs were thrown into a Maple Ridge store, damaging everything inside.

A small business owner has been forced to close their store after the shop was vandalized last week.

Taryn Stephenson and her mother own a tea shop in Maple Ridge called T's Once Upon a Tea Leaf. The incident happened at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 21 and left the entire business covered in an orange film.

"Everything that we've worked for for 16 years ... it just kind of went up in smoke,” says Stephenson, adding the store came from the idea that connection happens over a cup of tea.

On her way to see the damage, she pulled up the video surveillance to see a man throwing an object through the window of her business. 

"I saw smoke and then I just saw orange and I didn't know if it was flames. I didn't know if my boutique had been burned to the ground. It was terrifying,” she tells Glacier Media, noting there were two smoke bombs. 

Not only was the merchandise in the store ruined from the ‘marine’ pyrotechnic device, but the front window was shattered. She estimates $100,000 to $200,000 worth of stock has been destroyed and cannot be sold. 

Stephenson says nothing was stolen during the break-in.

“This was designed to send a message to scare us,” she says. 

Among the damaged items were some family heirlooms.

“We have my grandmother's chandelier that we used to have Christmas dinner under that the sun shines a light on our store, we have my great grandmother's banquet,” she says.

“All of these pieces… to know that they're damaged, that's the part that's the most hurtful.” 

Police investigating

Ridge Meadows RCMP confirms there is an ongoing and active investigation into the vandalism.

"There are no further details available at this time,” says a spokesperson. 

Stephenson believes this incident was targeted. She adds the individual was well dressed and the vandalism was calculated. 

“In the back of my mind, there's always that fear of what is this person gonna do next?” she says.

In June, a man was captured on video smashing the store window and throwing bear spray inside the building.

She’s not sure why someone would target the shop.

“My mom and I work hard every single day to be really good citizens of our community,” she says. "I can't imagine what we have done to someone to make them feel like they want to cause this much damage, and this much fear in us.”

Hiring full-time security is not an expense they can take on but she is speaking with the City of Maple Ridge to improve security measures. 

“As for the next steps right now, we are in a holding pattern,” she says. "We're just waiting. We're waiting for insurance to figure things out."

Community support filling their cup 

Despite the devastating blow to the small business, the community support has been flowing in, says Stephenson.

A fundraiser has been set up to bridge the gap while they wait to hear what happens with insurance. 

"That's been unbelievable. I look at the list of names of people who are contributing, and it's very humbling,” she says. 

The kind messages they have been receiving have also meant a lot to them. Someone took it upon themselves to write ‘we love you’ on the boarded-up plywood covering the broken windows. 

“It's nice to know that our community recognizes how grateful we are to be a part of it,” she says.