WHITE PLAINS — It’s bad enough when armed gunmen rob your store, but when owner Teresa Smith saw a loved one being threatened, the situation reached another level.
“I shot as much as that gun would let me shoot,” Smith said of the .38-caliber revolver she wielded Sunday night when two robbers entered the Cupboard No. 2 in White Plains and one held a handgun on her husband Barry.
While neither suspect was hit, a bullet hole in a door frame stood as a stark reminder Monday to the harrowing incident the evening before, when the second armed robbery of a rural store in four nights in Surry County unfolded.
The first had occurred about midnight Thursday at a Circle K convenience store, also involving two men.
“We believe these are the same two subjects who robbed the Circle K on Red Brush Road Thursday night,” Sheriff Graham Atkinson said of those involved in the latest incident at the Cupboard No. 2. The two crimes remain unsolved.
Robbers entered the store on Old Highway 601 in White Plains Sunday at 9:35 p.m., shortly before its scheduled closing time at 9:45.
The Smiths have two businesses in the same general area, Country Cupboard, which Barry Smith runs, and the Cupboard No. 2, operated by his wife.
“My husband had just closed his, and came to help me close mine,” Teresa Smith, 41, related Monday.
The men were on foot and apparently had been waiting outside in the darkness for their moment to strike, accosting Barry Smith as he prepared to enter the Cupboard No. 2.
“They put a gun to his back and forced him in the store,” Teresa Smith recalled of the men who wore hoodies and bandannas, with one described as slender and the other husky.
As the slender suspect went to the counter and took an undisclosed sum of money from Teresa Smith, the other man guarded the door while holding his weapon on Barry Smith.
The woman already had thought about reaching for a gun, and as soon as her husband was out of the line of fire she took swift action.
“It made me mad more than anything,” she said, “because my husband is a fantastic person.”
Smith owns both the .38-caliber pistol and a more-powerful 9mm handgun with a clip holding extra rounds, but grabbed the smaller-caliber weapon. “That was the first one I could get to,” she explained.
“They started to leave and I opened fire on them,” the store owner said of the two robbers, who also had what appeared to be a black, 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
One other customer was in the store, and immediately dove to the floor when he saw it was being robbed. “He looked like he was sliding into home,” Smith said.
Sheriff Atkinson said the robbers’ direction of travel was unclear, another similarity to the Thursday night incident.
“They have the same physical description and like the subjects in the earlier incident, were parked away from the store so that no one had a good vehicle description,” he added.
Warning To Businesses
The two men are described as white, with both about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and in their mid-20s to mid-30s. The slender man weighs between 130 and 140 pounds, with the other suspect believed to weigh between 240 and 250 pounds.
Surveillance photographs from the Circle K robbery, which provide an idea of their appearance, have been released in the hopes someone will recognize them and notify authorities.
“These individuals are dangerous,” said the sheriff, “and we need to take them into custody before someone is hurt during one of these crimes.”
He added, “even with their faces covered, we believe someone will recognize them.”
In the meantime, Atkinson is warning operators of other stores to be on the lookout for the robbers, especially if the businesses are in rural areas that are open at night. Someone who notices anyone acting suspiciously around the premises should notify authorities, the sheriff said.
Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call the Surry County Sheriff’s Office at 401-8900 or Crimestoppers at 786-4000.
A store owner might have a plan for what to do during a robbery attempt, but it’s hard to predict how they will react during an actual crime.
In Teresa Smith’s case, “I did what I thought was right,” she said of shooting at the two men. “I’m not your typical female.”
However, that doesn’t mean the White Plains resident would want to relive Sunday’s experience. “It was a nightmare,” Smith admitted.
She had just bought the business from her mother, Barbara Wilmoth, three weeks to the day before the robbery and has worked in similar settings since 1991.
“I’ve never been robbed,” Smith said.
The Cupboard No. 2 owner is irked by the social conditions she believes are behind people committing such crimes. “There’s jobs out there and they won’t take them — people are too lazy to work. They’d rather rob you.” Smith hopes her actions in fighting back, while not stopping the robbers, will cause them to think twice before striking elsewhere.
And while admitting to being “shaken” by Sunday night’s episode, Smith was back behind the counter serving customers on Monday.
“I’m not going to let them get the best of me,” the store operator said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.