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Someone robbed J. Selby’s, took off with donations for Franklin-Hiawatha encampment

"Is it a little chilly in here?" prep cooks wondered Saturday morning. Then, they saw the front door was missing.

"Is it a little chilly in here?" prep cooks wondered Saturday morning. Then, they saw the front door was missing. Facebook: J. Selby's

For a guy who just got robbed, Matt Clayton is awfully calm. Benevolent, even.

The owner of J. Selby's—the St. Paul vegan eatery known for its plant-based Big Mac ringer, soft-serve SoyClones, and general loveliness—says the restaurant was burgled just before 5 a.m. on Saturday. Thieves smashed the front door, made for the basement, and snatched the safe—damaging the wall and destroying the desk to which it was attached. 

J. Selby's prep team arrived shortly thereafter to find the space in disarray. 

“At first they thought, 'Oh, well, they’ve been doing some work on stuff down here, rearranging things,'" Clayton told City Pages Monday. Then, they walked upstairs, and thought, "Oh it’s actually kind of chilly in here ... and you know, I think the safe is missing?”

It sure was, along with its contents: blank checks and cash.

And that's the big bummer here, for Clayton. Because much of that cash was made up of donations collected at a free Thanksgiving dinner J. Selby's hosted for the community. It was meant to go to the Franklin-Hiawatha encampment

Clayton guesses he'll be made whole again. That's what insurance is for. The custom glass door will be costly and take a little time to replace; the broken desk is a goner. (Obviously, they'll need a new safe.) He hopes they'll be able to reclaim the Franklin-Hiawatha funds as well... though it sure would have been nice to give that money over now, as winter sets in in earnest.

But this is where the big-hearted, give-what-you-can spirit that runs through J. Selby's—which remains open for regular business hours—shines through. 

"You take a big step back, and take a more philosophical approach, and realize there’s one person out there so desperate they figured stealing from us was the only option they had," he says. "So that’s sad, too.”

In the meantime, asked if there's anything the community can contribute, Clayton is similarly zen:

“Just send us their good wishes.”