His eyewear store in the Northgate mall was ransacked and some $200,000 in cash and merchandise stolen, but optometrist Hermann Dungs was upbeat: Burglars missed his most valuable item – a pair of John Lennon’s eyeglasses. San Rafael police Thursday continued to investigate the weekend burglary, which wiped out Dungs’ Visionary Opticians store of eyeglasses, computers and cash. But a pair of the familiar round lenses worn by the Beatle more than three decades ago was one of the few items left – with a value of about $300,000 by Dungs’ estimation.
“At this point, it is funny to me,” said Dungs, of Fairfax. “Stuff happens.”
Police said thieves likely took advantage of easier off-hour access as the mall undergoes a remodel. The eyeglass store, the sole victim in the case, is at the north end of the mall where interiors have been torn down and boarded up in the $70 million renovation project. “We’re not exactly sure where they came through, but it seems like this wasn’t as secure as it could’ve been,” said San Rafael police Sgt. Mike Vergara. “It seems like it was accessible due to construction, (making it) a little bit easier to get in.”He said Northgate security has always been tight, “but obviously somebody found a loophole.” He was not aware of other mall burglaries since the reconstruction project began over the summer.Dungs suspected burglars entered through an opening in the roof, allowing them “to kick open a piece of plywood and then just step into the mall” and break his store’s lock.
Ryan Williams, senior marketing manager of mall owner, Macerich Co., said the construction crew has been employing extra security to patrol the outside of the mall in addition to the regular security detail inside. “Security is our number one priority (and) at Northgate it is no different,” he said, noting mall officials are “working with Hermann to alleviate the situation.” Dungs was glad that the burglars apparently didn’t need to use the shop’s restroom. That’s because sitting next to the sink were the lenses Lennon brought to a store Dungs once had on Union Street in San Francisco in 1971. “He bought two new pairs of glasses, then handed me his old ones that he said were all scratched up,” Dungs said, noting the musician was in the city for some political events.
He said Lennon called him back the next day when informed the new wire-rimmed specs were ready. He gave Dungs mailing instructions because he had to return to New York for a court appearance for a pot bust. A letter from Lennon thanking Dungs was one of the items swiped from the store’s window case. Dungs said Lennon’s old lenses, in frames from the official John Lennon collection, were typically on display in his shop with the letter, but he recently left them resting on the soap tray in the restroom with the intention of bringing them home.“If I hadn’t done that, they would have been gone.”
Last year, a pair of orange-tinted glasses worn by the Beatles singer and composer throughout the band’s 1966 tour of Japan was auctioned off to a British collector for $1.5 million.