Owner of a popular Harborough coffee shop targeted in a late-night burglary thanks the public for their 'fantastic support'

Blend Coffee and Cakes says they will come back stronger than ever

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 1:16 pm

The owner of a popular Market Harborough coffee shop targeted in a late-night raid has vowed – we’ll come roaring back.

Ellie Duffin, 25, sent out her rallying warcry after her town centre business Blend Coffee and Cakes was burgled in the early hours of last Friday morning (June 4).

She said the burglar, Paul Alayla, 49, was arrested by police in Welland Park just hours later – and, as we reported earlier, he appeared in court on Monday as he admitted burgling her business.

Owners Ellie and Hazel Duffin after the break-in at Blend coffee shop in Manor Walk.
Owners Ellie and Hazel Duffin after the break-in at Blend coffee shop in Manor Walk. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Today Ellie told the Harborough Mail: “We are very angry and upset that this man broke into our coffee shop and caused so much mess and destruction.

“We were forced to close for the day on Friday and it’s obviously a big blow because we’d only been reopened for three weeks as a result of the Covid pandemic.

“But we are already bouncing back stronger than ever.

“The reaction of the community in Market Harborough has been absolutely fantastic,” said Ellie, who owns the much-loved outlet on Manor Walk with her mum Hazel Duffin.

The damage after the burglary

“The outpouring of love towards us and our team here has been incredible.

“And we are using and channelling that love and support for us to turn this whole sorry episode into a massive positive.

“There is no point wasting any more anger or energy over the burglar and what he did to us.

“We are already swiftly moving on and using the energy and goodwill of the many people in Market Harborough who’ve immediately got behind us to power us forwards.”

Owners Ellie and Hazel Duffin after the break-in at Blend coffee shop in Manor Walk with David Letts who caught the burglar. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Alayla, of Jubilee Gardens, Market Harborough, was quickly seized by police after he was caught red-handed on CCTV smashing his way into Blend’s at about 2am last Friday morning.

“He was initially spotted on camera walking past us at about 10pm on Thursday night as if he was just having a look.

“He returned about four hours later.

“He can clearly be seen hammering our front door with a couple of bricks,” said Ellie.

The damage after the burglary

“But it’s toughened glass and the bricks bounce off.

“So he starts kicking the door – he must have been desperate to get in.

“What sort of headspace must he have been in to be that desperate to break in?

“So he finally smashed his way in.

“And he was very lucky not to have been seriously injured because there was flying glass and broken glass all over the place.

“We have a sign outside saying we don’t have cash in the till overnight – nobody does these days.

“So he stole an empty till along with some milk and soap.

“He dropped the till outside and amazingly wandered back in to the shop clambering through all the shattered glass.

“Goodness knows what he was thinking.

“We turned up first thing on Friday to be met by a scene of total destruction with our door battered in and jagged glass everywhere,” said Ellie, who has owned Blend’s for three years.

“It took us all a while to process the sheer shock and devastation and to come to terms with what happened.

“We closed for the day to clear up the mess and damage.

“And we immediately started getting messages of support from people on Facebook as well as at the shop itself.

“A couple of neighbouring businesses, MobileDoc and Harborough Lights, had caught the whole thing on their CCTV cameras.

“The man at Harborough Lights was out walking his dog in Welland Park at about 4pm that Friday afternoon.

“He spotted a man lying on a bench and recognised him from his CCTV footage as the man who hit us straight away.

“He called the police and they went straight to arrest him,” said Ellie.

“What were the chances of him going out to walk his dog and catching the burglar just a few hours later?

“It was obviously fate - you couldn’t make it up!

“We decided to reopen on Saturday and to go in and have a laugh if nothing else.

“It was just brilliant.

“Our customers have been so supportive, so lovely – we can’t thank them enough.

“We’ve got four staff here and they’ve been great as well, cleaning up and getting us back up and running.

“We are actually looking for two new staff at the moment, it’s starting to take off again.

“It’s just massive to be back open again after being shut for five months due to the lockdown,” said Ellie.

The burglar, Paul Alayla was handed a 10-week prison term suspended for 12 months at Leicester magistrates’ court on Monday.

He admitted burgling Blend’s.

Asked what she thought of Alayla and his sentence, Ellie replied: “I’d have liked to have seen him go straight to jail to be honest.

“But he has had to face some sort of justice at least for what he has done to us – and that’s got to be good.

“He hasn’t got away with it.

“It’s all just very sad really.

“He caused a lot of destruction for what?

“An empty till and some milk and soap,” said Ellie.

“But we are not letting this dampen our spirits one bit.

“It’s been a tough year for all of us amid the pandemic.

“But we will come back stronger than ever.

“We can’t wait to kick on and enjoy the sunshine and the amazing weather with our brilliant army of customers and supporters in Market Harborough this summer.”