ST. LOUIS COUNTY • The owner of a beauty supply store says he was suspicious of two customers who walked into his store a few days ago and said they wanted to buy a gift for a girlfriend. They asked to see the most-expensive hair extensions in his store, then left without buying a thing.
Now the owner, Sam Eid, says he suspects those two men are the ones who rammed a pickup into his store at about 4:30 a.m. today. They ignored the cash register, five feet away, and took thousands of dollars worth of Remy hair extensions made of human hair.
"They grabbed a whole bunch of them," Eid said as he surveyed the damage at his store, Kay Beauty Supply at 8624 Natural Bridge Road. "The ones they were stealing, they're pretty expensive — $100 to $250 each."
Eid is the latest victim of a smash-and-grab: a growing crime in the metro area. Rarely a week goes by that another business isn't hit by such thieves taking electronics, liquor, cigarettes. Several of those businesses have been beauty supply stores, like Eid's. On Memorial Day, for example, thieves rammed a truck into Kings Beauty supply store near the Halls Ferry Circle and made off with boxes of the extensions.
At the end of May, police across the metro area had counted at least 14 similar crimes since April 25. So far in June, a few more have been added to that list. Thieves are using tools as small as bricks or as large as stolen pickup trucks to smash windows or walls. They then quickly grab loot and flee.
The increasingly popular hair extensions have been a big hit with thieves at some beauty salons across the country. At one salon in Dearborn, Mich., in 2011, a shop owner was killed during the theft of 80 hair extensions. The extensions are a hot commodity, a big fashion trend, and underground markets have emerged, say police in other jurisdictions who have investigated such thefts.
The smash-and-grab criminals who drove a pickup into Eid's storefront in north St. Louis County early today were caught on tape but were wearing masks, said Eid, whose family also uses the last name of Jaber. The truck apparently backed into the store twice before the men jumped out and grabbed packages of the hair extensions from a front corner display — the same display Eid had pointed out to the customers he was suspicious of a few days earlier.
Eid says two men came into the store three of four days ago and asked to see the "most-expensive" and long-hair extensions. One said he wanted to buy one for his girlfriend. Eid showed them the display in the front corner of the store, but the man quickly left.
"They didn't buy anything, and I really had a bad feeling," he said. "I'm almost sure it's them."
Now, Eid is going back in his store's surveillance tape to try to pinpoint the time three or four days ago when those men paid a visit. He wants to give that tape to police to show the men he suspects.
A few hours after the theft today, Eid was still taking inventory of what was missing but estimated it was "at least $10,000" retail value in merchandise. "But I'm pretty sure it's a big supply," he said. "I see a lot of empty hooks."
Eid said he has been in the neighborhood 10 years, about half at this location, and this is the first time that smash-and-grab bandits have hit his store. Eid has heard of the rash of smash-and-grabs to hit area businesses, and says, "Why is this happening?"
"This is really terrible," he said. "I work so hard to make a nice business. If it happens again, I may have to leave."
He said he is angry and frustrated.
"I really need the business," he said. "The money — they really set me back."