It felt like a professional hit, Curtis Steiner said.
"They cut the electricity, they cut the lights, they cut the phone lines," he said on Tuesday night.
Just hours before, Steiner had stopped by his Ballard store to pick up something on his day off and found that it had been ransacked and burgled.
Curtis Steiner is not just a store. To many people, me included, it's a museum. I can't afford most of the eccentric antiques in the store, but I visit them regularly, like friends or works of art. Steiner knows the history of almost every piece, and likes telling the stories.
Over 16 years on Ballard Avenue, Steiner has curated—no exaggeration: truly curated—a collection of objects that you cannot find anywhere else, and he displays them in gorgeous, elaborate arrangements. The store has never before been robbed, he said.
The thieves only broke one mirror. But they swept away the contents of Steiner's careful displays, leaving blank velvet cushions and bare mannequin décolletages. They carried it all off in the store's trash can, he said, and on their way out dropped a bag they'd stuffed with antique religious books and the giant screwdriver they used to jimmy the front door locks.
They also discovered Steiner's stash of the most precious Georgian and Victorian diamonds and gold, things that are one-of-a kind. They took all of it.
"The thing about this place is I just can't go make another order," Steiner said. He and a friend spent hours taking an inventory of what was left after they talked to police on Tuesday.
They didn't destroy or take the art on display, or any of the necklaces Steiner makes himself, which is how he makes most of his living.
"But that's not that as important, really," he said. "A lot of what was here might not have been outrageously valuable, it was just outrageously interesting."
The way Steiner collects is that he hunts. It takes years to put together what the burglars destroyed in minutes.
"It's just a slow trickle of eccentric things," he said. For instance, the thieves took a series of pieces of 19th-century British jewelry—armbands, bracelets, brooches—made by placing iridescent butterfly wings under glass. "Even if I could find [these things] today, [they] wouldn't necessarily be at a price where I could resell."
Steiner has many friends in the antiques business, so has a good chance of recovering items if they show up somewhere else, he said.
It's the other possible fate that he dreads.
"We can't do anything about the melt," he said. "A lot of these beautiful things will just be melted down for metal. It makes me sick."
Steiner said he will reopen the store as soon as he can.