On Saturday night, an office at Green Auto Sales Inc. in Mebane was broken into and set on fire. This is the second time in three weeks the business has been broken into; a window was broken and car keys and a car were stolen in March.
Elbert and Chondra Green are the owners of Green Auto Sales. Green said his phone was off on Saturday night. His teenage daughter received a call from one of her friends, saying her parents’ business was on fire.
When the Greens arrived, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and Mebane Fire Department were already on scene and the fire had been extinguished. Green said he was told someone broke in through the front door, attempted to rob the office and, when nothing of value was found, proceeded to start a fire in the building.
ACSO Director of Communications, Engagement, and Diversity Michelle Mills confirmed Green Auto Sales was broken into Saturday and a subsequent arson occurred in one of the offices.
Green Auto Sales sells cars and storage buildings. There are two office buildings on the property: one for the storage buildings and one for the cars. The storage building office was broken into Saturday.
“I don't know what they were looking for, there's nothing here except papers, the computer, the fax machine, phones, you know, there's nothing here…” Green said. “I guess they got upset they couldn't find anything that they could sell or whatever.”
The flames managed char the walls and burn up shelves and carpet, leaving a strong and thick smell of smoke lingering in the office. But aside from the damages to the building, everything in the office was salvageable except for a television and one laptop.
However, Green doesn’t have insurance, and will have to pay completely out of pocket to repair the building and replace what was lost. On Easter Sunday, Green and his wife spent the day stripping down the inside of the burned office.
“Normally we keep 15 to 20 cars, I'm down to six and that's because I can't keep them, which is a good thing,” Green said. “But you got a double-edged sword here – you do good, now you got to give your money away.”
Although the business experienced another break-in three weeks ago, Green was able to fix (and reinforce) the window that was broken and the stolen car was soon found a few miles away at a Food Lion.
Mills also confirmed there was a break-in and vehicle larceny at the business in March, but investigators do not believe this incident is related to the one that took place Saturday night.
However, authorities are continuing to investigate both crimes and have not ruled out the possibility they are related.
The Greens have owned Green Auto Sales since January 3, 2003. Until three weeks ago, there had been only one break-in, so they have never felt the need for insurance for their business.
“Nothing ever happens but these last three weeks have been just horrible,” Green said. “So now we're going to start getting prices and stuff. I'm going insure this building, that building, I'm going to get me some insurance.”
Green described the entire situation as “heart wrenching,” especially because there are times when business gets very slow. Green then implored other small business owners to learn from his mistakes.
“To actually go through something like this, man, it hurts,” Green said. “But I will tell people, even when times are tight, and you feel like you just can't make it, you better have some insurance. If I had insurance, knowing they were going to pay for that, I wouldn’t feel half as bad.”
Anyone with any information regarding these cases is asked to report it to ACSO immediately.