Local business owners concerned after armed robberies

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Businesses along part of Plank Road are passing a message to keep an eye on each other. That's after two stores there were robbed on Wednesday, within hours of each other. The owner of one store says he had a gun pointed at his head, but he opened his business back up Thursday morning.

"We've been talking amongst each other," said Leonard Williams, owner of Leonard's Barber Shop. It's just two blocks away from where the incidents happened.

Williams says when he was leaving his barber shop, be saw several police cars in the parking lot of a clothing store called, The Real Deal.

"I kind of figured something had transpired. Didn't know what until this morning," he said.

Baton Rouge Police say a man, who appeared to be a customer, was at the store shopping. "goes to the counter, as if they're going to check out and produces a gun," said Cpl. Don Coppola, with the police department.

The owner of the store told 9 News he cooperated and handed over cash and some clothing. The store has been in business for 21 years, and the owner says he's had people take items before but never has he stared down the barrel of a gun.

Sugar Belle, a bakery in the shopping center across from The Real Deal, was also robbed at gunpoint earlier that same day.

"There's a lot of similarities with the robbery itself, along with the description we have of the suspect," Coppola said. He added, investigators have not yet determined if the two incidents are related.

"Even though it was their business this time, it could affect mine," said Leonard Williams. "People hear 70805 being the worst area. They say wow, we're not going there."

Williams says these kinds of crimes can put a dark cloud over the whole area. He says he can sympathize with the other businesses because he too has been in their shoes.

"I had a robbery in '99," Williams said. "A friend and a customer was murdered."

It's something he says affected him on a personal level, but he chose not to move his shop. He says if the owners there give in, they let the criminals win. Instead he says, what they should do is band together. Not just for the sake of business, but for the entire area.

"When it happened to me, I was so surprised by how many phone calls - different business owners told me they'd been through it. Don't close your doors, keep the doors open and be careful. I keep saying it over and over again, if we give in, they win. And we can't allow that."

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.