Like other business owners in the area, Anchor River Inn general manager Jesse Clutts had to make some adjustments to the winter slowdown in business: fewer days, shorter operating hours. An after-hour burglary of the long-time restaurant and bar business didn’t help.
“About seven months back we were broken into,” Clutts told the Homer News last week. “Someone busted through three different doors and picked up our safe in the bar and hauled it off.”
Surveillance video captured the image of an individual leaving the bar with the safe, but “we couldn’t tell clearly who it was,” said Clutts.
The Alaska State Troopers were notified, but no suspects were identified and no arrests made.
Inside the safe were tills from both the bar and restaurant sides of the business.
“We were able to recover the credit card transactions, but … we ended up losing about $1,800 in cash as well as losing the safe, the broken doors and that kind of stuff,” said Clutts.
Then, on the evening of May 8, things got a bit brighter for Clutts and the Anchor River Inn. A bartender at the inn received a phone call from someone wanting to speak to Clutts. Refusing to give out Clutts’ personal number, the bartender, instead, relayed the message to his employer that the caller was eager to speak with him.
Clutts returned the call to Allen Clinton, owner of Alaska Log Haven B&B in Clam Gulch and an electrician with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Safety. Clinton had been working in the Anchor Point school zone when he found Clutts’ safe.
Finding trash along the sides of the road isn’t unusual for highway crews. At first Clinton thought he was seeing a cooler stuck in the trees along the edge of the Sterling Highway below the inn. When he passed by it a second time, he thought he might be able to use the cooler as a bait box on his boat. When he gave it a kick, however, he knew what he’d found wasn’t a cooler.
“It looked like a home safe, a fireproof safe,” he said.
Guessing it might have fallen off a vehicle driven by someone that was moving, Clinton retrieved the unopened safe, which he estimated weighed about 60 pounds, and took it home. Later that evening, he managed to force it open, hoping to find something that would identify the safe’s owner.
“It had three cash boxes in it, ledgers, bank deposit bags and a binder that had billing information and receipts that were clearly Anchor River Inn stuff,” said Clinton.
With the help of his wife, Petra, Clinton found the phone number for the inn and initiated the contact with Clutts.
“(Clutts) was really pretty funny about it when I told him. He just wasn’t really too excited about it all,” said Clinton of Clutts’ reaction to having what he assumed was a busted up safe returned. “I said ‘So, you want it.’ He goes, ‘Well, yeah, I suppose so.’ I said, ‘Everything’s still in it.’ And he said, ‘Where do you live?’”
Clutts and his wife, Jennifer, made the trip to the Clintons’ home where they were given all the missing cash.
“We had a great conversation,” said Clinton. “They shared a couple of stories about their lodge and, of course, they liked very much getting the cash back.”
Having the safe stolen gave Clutts and his crew at the inn an opportunity to “learn from our mistakes. Our new safe is bolted down really well,” he said.
Having the cash returned also was a learning experience.
“(Clinton) didn’t expect anything. He just wanted to do the right thing,” said Clutts. “Thank God for good honest people. We can be proud of the caliber of people we have working for DOT.”
When asked about returning the cash, Clinton referred to the bumper sticker that says, “Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.”
“I don’t have a dog, so I just changed it to “Lord, help me be the person you think I am,” he said.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.