You might not know her full name, but Lisa Dragonetti is a fixture on the Upper East Side — and she’s fed up. Dragonetti is the owner of Lisa’s on Second, which over its 35 years has transitioned from a Hallmark Store into the Upper East Side’s one-stop-shop for personally-curated toys, baby clothes, party supplies and more. She says her store has become a repeated target of shoplifters. What hurts the most, she says, is that these are not criminal enterprises that plan to fence the stolen goods, instead, it is her UES neighbors — who smile to her face as they rob her blind.
“Anything that they can just grab,” Dragonetti says has become a target of thieves, “It’s clothing, it’s kids clothing. A lot of stuffed animals go. Candles, toys, anything that’s small.”
“These are moms,” Lisa explained to Upper East Site in an exclusive interview, “These are customers that have shopped in my store for 30 years. These are people that I know by first name. How do you do that to somebody?”
Right now, just two faces are posted on the ‘wall of shame’ behind the counter at Lisa’s on Second, located at 1751 Second Avenue, between East 91st and 92nd Streets in Yorkville. The words ‘UES THIEF’ is written in black marker over the 8.5” by 11” printouts of the women who Lisa says were caught on camera stuffing her merchandise into their pockets.
“You don’t know what you’re looking at,” Lisa says, “ because people that you thought were your customers for years on end are turning to out to be a local thief.”
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“For 30 years that she’s been shopping here, was she stealing all those 30?” she wonders.
Lisa tells Upper East Site that it shouldn’t have to be this way — and she’s right.
Toy stores like hers are supposed to be fun happy places where Upper East Side moms and dads can bring their kids and get the personalized service that’s disappeared with e-commerce and shopping through tech giants like Amazon — but she’s at a breaking point and wants anyone with nefarious intentions to know she means business.
“I cannot lock up my goods here [like CVS or Duane Reade]. You’re not going to come into a happy place and lock up a toy or a lock up an adorable outfit for a kid. You can’t keep it under lock and key, it’s ridiculous,” the business owner explained.
Instead, Lisa’s had to increase the number of employees she has on staff, because she can only keep limited quantities of some products on display, while the rest are kept safely tucked away from sticky fingers.
Unfortunately, theft has to be top of mind for Lisa and her loss prevention-focused team.
Lisa’s on Second is saturated with surveillance cameras and even a large sign on the door warns any potential thieves that they are being recorded, but Lisa says its no deterrent to moms who will come in and use their children as a decoy while they stuff their bags with expensive baby clothes.
“You feel so violated as a person,” Lisa told us,” I take this very very personally, because this is my baby — I’ve nurtured this business from day one.”
Upper East Site viewed one such video, where a blonde woman in a tank top is seen telling her daughter to go to the other side of the store. That’s when the longtime customer removes her wallet from her purse, apparently to make room for the $250 clothes she would pilfer from the rack directly in view of the camera.
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“Why would you come to me and steal baby clothes?,” Lisa asks rhetorically, unable to comprehend what drives longtime customers to victimize her business.
“If you need baby clothes that badly, tell me and I will work it out with you. Don’t blatantly when I turn my back, stick $250 in your bag and walk out our doors.”
In the past two weeks, Lisa says she has called police to her store four times because of thefts caught on camera, taking the time to file reports each and every time — because, she says, making life uncomfortable for thieves is the only deterrent she knows will work.
Lisa says the goal is not to shame the women in the surveillance images, who she notes live within a block of her store, but to put anyone who mistakes her kindness for weakness on notice.
“I will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Lisa explained, not mincing words.
Like Cortney Bond, owner of the popular Upper East Side establishments — The UES ice cream shop and speakeasy and Not A Speakeasy night club — who last Sunday week chased a violent tip jar thief until East Harlem until police could collar the suspect, Lisa says its up to business owners to action to protect themselves.
Right now though, she just wants to strike a balance between vigilance and continuing to be the welcoming, inclusive space Lisa’s on Second has been for the last three decades — bringing smiles to faces of children and their parents alike.
“I don’t want to be another statistic,” Lisa said, “So, I’m trying to nip this in the bud before we get to that level.”
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