Pike Place merchant claims $20,000 in losses after cart thief steals entire inventory

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Inside her Georgetown studio, blacksmith Erica Gordon is already hard at work.

"This is just not going to be a quick thing to replace," said Gordon, owner of Steel Toe Studio. "The biggest loss for me is the labor."

The artisan handcrafts leather belts, buckles and fine jewelry. And she is now being forced to rebuild her business.

"I make every single thing with my hands and these tools so its an enormous amount of work to make again," said Gordon.

For the last four years, Gordon has sold her products among 200 other local merchants at Pike Place Market.

"I've been doing this about 20 years and it’s a really, really tough way to make a living," said Gordon.

Making surveillance photos of someone stealing $20,000 worth of her product at the market Friday night even harder to stomach.

"I texted my cart pusher and asked him where the cart was and I found him and he said ‘It's gone’," described Gordon.

The cart pusher—often hired by merchants to store their stuff at the end of the night--had accidentally left one cart behind.

"I was like ‘Oh you're joking’, and he was like ‘No it’s gone' and then it became apparent that he had found security that morning at 6 a.m. with the remains of the dolly and some empty bins," described Gordon.

A crime of opportunity--after someone stole not just her hard work--but her livelihood.

"It's devastating. I didn’t get mad. I mostly—I’m just really sad," said Gordon. "I had a quiet ugly cry in private for a few minutes until I could hold it together."

With almost no product to sell, the shop owner says she's going to have to take a hiatus from selling at the market--estimating it will take a minimum of 6-8 weeks until she can create enough new merchandise to come back.

Estimating it'll take far longer to get her inventory back to what it used to be. Other Pike Place vendors say they wish they had more security and that theft at the market is a constant problem.

"You know you’ve got two people at the table, one's talking--you're working with them--the other person is stealing from you," described Jennie Bunnel, who sells and manages booths for two different pike place merchants.

Now other merchants at the market are coming together for one of their own.

"We took up a collection for her the other day," said Bunnel. "Hopefully that helped alleviate something. I mean--this is her living."

Hoping even a small donation helps to ease the burden of rebuilding her inventory.

"It's also going to force me to design in a different way --which I love," said Gordon, trying to think optimistically. "I'll have to come up with some new designs and change some of the labor intensive stuff."

Gordon is choosing to see the setback as a challenge for the new year. Hopeful someone knows who's responsible.

"I'm happy it happened in 2017 and not the first day of 2018 so I can package it up as last years problem," joked Gordon.

Pike Place Market released surveillance video of the incident. Seattle Police confirmed the theft--but have not yet identified a suspect. Pike Place Market officials say they have security staffed all over the market 24 hours a day and that they have at least 3 security guards on-site at all time.