Ceres Cafe, Once Damaged by Fire, Hit by Thieves Right Before Grand Opening

CERES -- Sam's Cafe in Ceres is the place to be if you're desperate for caffeine or a chicken fried steak as big as your plate at 5:30 a.m.

Sherrill McManus Petersen is happy to serve anyone who comes to dine at her restaurant but her hospitality comes to a halt for thieves like the ones who helped themselves to her safe three hours before she opened Wednesday morning.

"I don't know. It just looks like they ran past everything into the back like they didn't know the layout of my restaurant," McManus Petersen said. "Didn't touch the register, my monitor, none of my expensive stuff."

According to Ceres police, after prying open the cafe's front door, the thieves eventually found a small safe that was sitting on a shelf and wasn't bolted down.

There were around $100 inside the stolen safe and a stack of gift cards but those cards would have had to have been loaded first to be worth anything.

The break-in came just shy of one month since Sam's has been back in business.

A devastating fire caused by the mistake of a roofing crew kept food off the tables and customers out of the doors since Black Friday 2017.

After those unfortunate incidents and their even more unfortunate timing, it may seem impossible for the single mother, who has worked at or run the restaurant since she was 17, to not be depressed. But McManus Petersen said her ability to bounce back is all thanks to her customers.

"They've all become family," she said. "They've grown to care about us."

With a soft opening a month ago, Sam's Cafe had already set its grand opening for Friday at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting with the city council. That is on track despite the theft.

Business has been so good, McManus Petersen is looking for another cook who can work Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Ceres police say another cafe owner in Delhi suffered the same fate McManus Petersen did about half an hour later, around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. If you recognize any of the thieves in the surveillance video, Ceres police want to know.

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