When a $330 Marc Jocobs clutch was stolen the afternoon of July 21 from kiki in Baton Rouge’s Perkins Rowe (a store owned by Lafayette retailer Kiki Frayard), 25-year-old manager Cammy Lowe didn’t wait around for local officials to solve the crime. She’d visited with the two shoppers when they came into the upscale boutique, both of whom were well-dressed and friendly, and could even recall the new Lexus they drove up in parked right outside of the store. Lowe noticed the bag was missing when the pair walked out of the store and immediately checked the surveillance tape. “We had the whole thing on tape. We even captured the car, which had an LSU plate on the front,” she says. The duo had been hanging around the fragrance bar, the tape revealing that the older woman appeared to be shielding the younger woman from Lowe’s view. The tape clearly shows the younger woman slipping the clutch into her own purse.

Lowe called the shopping center’s security, which reviewed the tape, and then she walked around to other stores, describing the women and asking if anyone had seen them. Store employees and managers recognized the women from the descriptions she gave, saying they were regular shoppers. Upset that the shoplifting had occurred under her watch ­— Lowe says she turned around for only a few seconds while they were in the store — the manager decided the next day to take action to help police investigators. Figuring the alleged shoplifter (who had been accompanied by an older woman) was about her age, Lowe decided to post the surveillance video, still shots captured from it and a pic of the Marc Jacobs bag on the social networking site Facebook. Even if the young woman was not a Facebook user, Lowe was hoping people would recognize her.

 The retailer’s instincts were right on. 

“Some people from other stores recognized her from Facebook, and that’s pretty much what led to us catching her,” Lowe says. A manager at another Perkins Rowe store knew the woman’s first name and told Lowe she was in the store every week. On Saturday, Aug. 2, Lowe got a call from the store. “I rushed in there,” Lowe says. “[The two women] were checking out at the counter. When they left, I followed them to their car and wrote their license plate down. I was really determined,” she says.

Lowe called the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office detective assigned to the case and gave him the license plate number. He assured her he’d come the store within a few days with a photo lineup. The following Wednesday the detective, Cpl. Richard Decuir, came into the store with six pictures of blond-haired women. “I had to identify her,” Lowe says. The alleged shoplifter, 24-year-old Stephanie De Chavez Ruiz of 8937 Trudeau Ave. in Baton Rouge, was arrested Aug. 8 and charged with felony theft.   

Lowe is convinced Facebook solved the crime. “We had people commenting on our walls, so it kept momentum going and kept us motivated,” she says. “And I had a lot of pressure from Kiki to bring them down,” she says with a laugh.

If you’re a Facebooker and would like to view the surveillance video and Lowe’s amusing description of the incident, go to www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18915464700&ref=ts.

ELEGANCE PLUS EXPANDING

The old Bob’s Feed Store at 4953 Johnston St., across from Doug Ashy, will be the new home to Elegance Plus later this year. Bridal shop owner Dee Weber has purchased the site, which most recently housed the business A Little Bit of Everything, and is renovating both the exterior and interior of the space into a 6,000-square-foot full-service bridal store.

Weber, who has owned the bridal and formal wear shop for more than two years, is currently located at 4702 Johnston St., behind Shangri La. She hopes to open the new store by Sept. 15.

Elegance Plus is the exclusive retailer for noted wedding gown designer Alfred Angelo, who will be on hand for the Oct. 4 grand opening.

Priding itself on “old-fashioned personal customer service,” according to Weber, the new store is expanding its offerings. In addition to its extensive selection for the bride and bridal party, Elegance Plus will feature a large showroom and parlor, six oversized dressing rooms (double what Weber has now), three private family rooms, a lounging area for men, a kid’s play area, an onsite seamstress and invitation specialist, and free makeup consultations. “Brides can also sample and special order their wedding cake while they are in the store,” Weber says.

NEUNER JOINS ELITE GROUP

In large part due to his efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Laborde & Neuner Managing Partner Frank Neuner has been named the LSU Law Center’s 2008 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. A 1976 LSU Law Center graduate, the Lafayette attorney will be honored Thursday, Oct. 30, at a ceremony in New Orleans, joining the likes of former U.S. Sens. Russell Long and J. Bennett Johnston and two Acadiana-area recipients — former U.S. Sen. John Breaux in 2000 and Patrick A. Juneau Jr. in 2006. The award is given annually to an alumnus who exemplifies the highest quality and ethical standards of the legal profession and also recognizes personal and professional achievements. Neuner’s October recognition will come on the heels of the third anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which displaced half of the lawyers in the state from their homes and offices for about a month and affected those needing legal aid. Seeing the legal community’s difficulties and in a position to do something about it, Neuner and his associates stepped up. “My law firm was up and running, and we had available office space,” Neuner says. “We were able to house most of the Louisiana State Bar Association here at our office for more than two months following Hurricane Katrina.”

Laborde & Neuner also assisted displaced lawyers with communication and eventually with small stipends to get them back on their feet.

MAXIM FINISHING UP MACUMBA

Lafayette-based film and production company Maxim Entertainment has started post production on its horror/comedy flick Macumba, Maxim’s first-ever feature film shot in Acadiana.

The work is being done by director Ricardo Islas and director of photography Christian Herrera at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge, in conjunction with Films In Motion, a Baton Rouge-based production and service company. 

“We were able to make this film utilizing equipment provided by Lafayette area learning institutions and crew based in the region,” says Blaine McManus, a partner with Maxim Entertainment. “This is proof that feature films can be made in Lafayette using local resources, which is our primary goal as a company — to make Lafayette and Acadiana the next hub of the Louisiana film industry.”

Shot in both English and Spanish, Macumba is expected to be ready for sale this fall and will be presented in November at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif.

Maxim Entertainment has two additional films scheduled for completion before the end of 2008, with principal photography and post production taking place in Lafayette and New Orleans.

CHARLEY G’S REGULARS

Charley G’s has introduced a frequent dining club program that will benefit its loyal customers or allow them to donate credits earned to an area charity. To join, request a club member form on your next visit to the Ambassador Caffery Parkway eatery and start earning a credit of 5 percent on each purchase to use toward future visits or donate to charity. If you intend to donate your 5 percent credit, the form allows you to choose from three charities — Acadiana Outreach, Hospice of Acadiana or Stuller Place. The credits, in the form of Charley G’s gift certificates, will be dispersed in your name quarterly.

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