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STAFF PICKS - Best Petty Theft Museum 

click to enlarge Stop and Shop Market’s homage to larceny - PHOTO BY RYAN BURNS
  • photo by Ryan Burns
  • Stop and Shop Market’s homage to larceny

The Stop and Shop Market, on the corner of Wabash and B in Eureka, is known colloquially as “The Stop ‘n’ Rob.” If you’re wondering why, you need only step inside and take a gander at the refrigerated section. Taped to the wall (in a chain that extends from the floor to top-shelf height, then continues above half a dozen beer-filled cold cases) you’ll find a collection of security cam still shots, printed on standard office paper, that capture a motley assortment of petty thieves mid-crime: swaggering thick-necks and shifty-eyed waifs caught palming candy bars and Bic lighters.

 This, evidently, is how the proprietors combat their steady stream of shoplifters: deterrence (or revenge) through shame and embarrassment. And the best parts -- the elements that really lend these postings some Dickensian pathos -- are the messages that have been added to the photos, sarcastic quips printed in block letters or hastily Sharpied in the margins, many of them written in the first person. “I steal burritos,” reads one such caption, scrawled below a man with his arm in the freezer. Another gives voice to a Lee Marvin type in a baseball shirt: “I am a cowboy,” it says. “I steal shit!!” Some messages even tackle societal problems, like the one that ponders whether the slouching, slack-jawed woman pictured might have a substance abuse problem: “Cracky Crack Head?” it asks.

 Whether your sympathies lie with the outed thieves or the bitter shopkeepers, you’re not likely to find a more pure expression of a city’s scrappy underbelly than The Stop ‘n’ Rob’s misdemeanor mosaic.

 -- Ryan Burns

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