How to help
Anyone with information about the theft of the Ah Yek family's property is encouraged to contact the Vancouver Police West precinct at 360-487-7355. Callers outside of business hours can leave voice mail.
(Steven Lane/The Columbian)Buy this photo
A frazzled Kristen Ah Yek received some good news from police on Thursday afternoon.
While she and her family were scrambling to find enough equipment to run their Kristen's Sweet Delights food booth at the Vancouver Farmers Market this weekend, authorities had located their truck, which was stolen earlier in the week and had $13,000 worth of restaurant equipment inside.
But it wasn't all good news.
Police brought the truck back to Ah Yek's home in the Carter Park neighborhood and cut open a lock that thieves had placed on the 18-foot Ford box van. As the doors on the retired U-Haul truck opened, Ah Yek thought, "Please say everything's in there," she recalled Saturday.
It looked as if the truck had been taken on a joy ride. Some of the equipment for her family's food-booth business was in there, but about $8,000 worth was still missing. Strange items had been left inside the truck, such as a table saw and tools she didn't recognize, and a framed picture of a little girl.
The inside of the truck smelled like some kind of "unhealthy and gross" chemical Ah Yek said she couldn't identify. Hypodermic needles littered the back of the van. Cigarette butts and beer cans were left in the vehicle's cab. The thieves had used about three quarters of a tank of gas.
The thieves took the metal poles that held up the signs for her booth, but they left the signs behind.
Despite the setback, Ah Yek and her family were up and running Saturday alongside other vendors at the Vancouver Farmers Market. The were operating at about 80 percent capacity and were unable to provide some of their menu items, including waffles and strawberry smoothies. Her husband had to purchase a $3,000 grill to replace the one that was stolen.
They also were missing a 6-foot ice cream freezer on wheels, a commercial fridge and natural gas fryers, a cash box, a food warmer and a metal storage cart that they set other equipment on top of. On Saturday, they were making do with backup equipment, including an old refrigerator, a couple propane fryers and folding tables.
As Ah Yek and her family worked at their booth, they were approached with hugs from friends and well wishes. "Sorry your 15 minutes of fame had to be for this," one woman told the Ah Yeks.
It will take a couple of weeks before they know what the true impacts are to their business. They have several outdoor events scheduled in the weeks ahead, where they will serve larger crowds. The business is a major source of their family income, and they are still waiting to see exactly what their insurance will cover.
"We're going to hopefully recover from this," Ah Yek said.
Although the business' name hints at the fresh strawberry shortcake that kicked off the business, Kristen's Sweet Delights also sells hand-dipped corn dogs, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, shave ice and ribbon-cut fries. The color red is a big theme for the booth, and some of their missing equipment had been custom-painted bright apple red. The makeshift equipment feels out of place, Ah Yek said.
The family didn't use their truck on Saturday; they need to repair its broken window and clean it up.
"I feel gross even stepping into it," said Ah Yek, who's been in the restaurant business for 30 years. It's especially frustrating, she added, because "I really try to keep my business feeling clean and neat. I take pride in my business."
Police seeking information
Ah Yek's husband, Keone Ah Yek, reported the family's truck missing Tuesday. The thieves broke a window to get in, and there was no sign of the vehicle's being hot wired, so police believe the thieves were working with a set of master keys, Kristen Ah Yek said. The missing truck was discovered near John Ball Park in Vancouver's Hough neighborhood.
"They were so brazen, to just start up the truck and leave," Kristen Ah Yek said. She said she assumes the people who stole her truck have addiction problems. It's important to get them off the streets and to get them help, she added.