by Morri Mostow


Thieves prey on local merchants

Bold, light-fingered crooks with a taste for high-end items have recently struck several merchants in Knowlton and Sutton.

England Hill was especially hard hit. All three of its Knowlton boutiques — linens, cuisine and heritage — had expensive items stolen, including a one-of-a-kind handmade quilt on display by Quebec artisan Denise Saulnier, which retails for over $800. “They seem to be professionals, who know exactly what they want,” opined Jean McLeod, co-owner of the England Hill boutiques.

Nearby Brome Lake Books was also robbed. Gone are three coffee-table books worth more than $100 each, several travel and health books, and, oddly, all five copies of a book on Osama Bin Laden. The retail value of the stolen goods totals $800, “a huge loss for a small store like ours,” laments owner Sue Riddell. “In the four years we’ve operated a book store in Knowlton, this is the first time anything was ever stolen.”

This same refrain was repeated by Sutton merchants, who are just as surprised and dismayed by this nasty turn of events. Boutique Monica, a souvenir shop, was hit twice over two weekends, when thieves made off with three collectible porcelain figurines valued at $300 to $400 a piece. Maurice Ferland, owner of designer-clothing boutique L’Atelier, had a $500 coat stolen off the rack the Sunday before last. Mysteria got off more lightly, losing only a single piece of medieval-style jewelry, valued at $55. In what could be unrelated incidents, Mysteria owner Monique Lussier also mention that outdoor Christmas decorations have also being stolen, including the old-fashioned lights outside of Au Coeur des saisons.

All of the indoor thefts occurred during regular business hours, when the stores were thronged with Christmas shoppers. Shop owners have reacted by hiring more staff and, in once case, installing surveillance equipment — a sad commentary on the decline of trust in these quiet towns where theft is virtually unheard of. Unfortunately, small merchants like these can ill afford such losses or the additional expense to beef up security.

The Quebec Provincial Police are investigating, although only one merchant has filed a formal complaint, along with a description of a suspect: a dark-haired, clean-cut, white male. The police can only speculate as to whether he is working alone or in an organized ring. If any one has any information about these thefts, contact the QPP in Cowansville at (450) 266-1122.


Woolrich has set up a second shop in Knowlton devoted entirely to the company’s impressive collection of blankets. Two doors down from its clothing store in the Mill Pond Village, the Woolrich blanket annex has taken over the former premises of the King’s Attic, a consignment shop that closed earlier this fall. “Now we have the space to properly showcase our blankets, just in time for the holiday gift-giving season,” said store manager Debbie Hornig.

Woolrich has been in the blanket business for the last 170 years, and it shows in the beautiful, traditional patterns still in use today. Blankets and throws, coordinated with pillows and shams, come in a wide selection of plaids, stripes, jacquards, Southwestern and Native American motifs, animal prints and rugged outdoor patterns. Since not everyone can tolerate wool, Woolrich also offers these cozy items in synthetic pile and fleece. The store also carries funky, fun cushions, robes, and oversized Christmas stockings perfect for hanging on the mantel or Christmas tree.

Woolrich Blankets, 264 Knowlton Road, in the Mill Pond Village in Knowlton. Phone (450) 424-1128. Open daily from 10 am. to 5 p.m.