MULTIPLE businesses in Clunes' Fraser Street remained closed on Monday following a destructive attempted break-in at the town's news agency in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Clunes newsagency owners Craig and Cynthia Drewer were selling their newspapers in 30 degree heat in the main street on Monday.
The clean-up lasted most of the night, with Hepburn Shire Council staff working to tidy the debris and sand from the road until the early hours of the morning.
The couple only bought the business 13 months ago.
Taking on the business was supposed to be a less stressful venture for the family, but Mr Drewer had been up since 2am rolling papers under the streetlamps because he could not access his newsagency, where the electric roller is stored.
He then delivered the papers across town in the early hours of the morning.
"I put the papers on my tailgate and when the regulars came down looking for the shop, they saw me selling from my car. We are just trying to keep it normal," he said.
"We are very tired but this is nothing that can't be fixed."
Mr Drewer said they were awaiting the arrival of an engineer to determine when the verandahs of the shop fronts could be brought down so it was safe for the neighbouring shop owners to re-enter their businesses.
Then they can determine if the newsagent needs to set up in another shop front along Fraser Street.
He said Clunes residents had been quick to lend them a helping hand, offering food and coffee, with others even offering their businesses for them to set up in while they re-constructed their store.
"It's just an unknown at the moment. We are waiting for them to say what they want to do with the buildings."
Ms Drewer said the newsagency also operated as the town's bank, so a lot of townspeople, especially the elderly, relied on them.
"That's the hardest part, because we just don't know when we can operate those services again. We need a secure premises to do it."
Ms Drewer said the facade of the original mid 1800s shop, originally a hairdresser, had been destroyed but amazingly, the original doors had survived.
Ballarat police arrested three people in relation to a series of separate alleged ATM thefts in the Ballarat area on Tuesday.
Armed Crime Squad detectives arrested a 34-year-old from Wendouree, a 38-year-old from Haddon and a 41-year-old from Brown Hill about 7am following an execution of warrants.
The arrests were related to the damage inflicted on Clunes newsagency at about 5.30am on Sunday morning as well as a string of other incidents, including at a Creswick bookshop late last year. It follows an extensive investigation into seven burglaries, thefts and attempted thefts on a variety of businesses.
On each occasion it is alleged the thieves targeted ATMs with either heavy equipment vehicles used to crash through street shop fronts or equipment used to force entry to the premises.
As part of the raids, detectives seized a number of firearms, cars, grinders, a sledgehammer and items believed to be related to the ATM thefts.
The damage destroyed the first two metres inside Clunes newsagency however the ATM was not stolen or breached.
Detective Sergeant Steve Howard said on Sunday that the front loader, which was used in the alleged ram-raid, had been stolen from Creswick Quartz and driven some 10 minutes to Clunes.
The incident followed a substantial amount of money being stolen from a Beaufort ATM in November 2018.
However, Ms Drewer said there is a silver lining to the whole fiasco.
"The ceiling collapsed inside the shop but now that it has fallen we have discovered a second - the original -ceiling," Ms Drewer said.
"It has flowers painted on it so we might end up keeping it. It could be a blessing."
- With Greg Gliddon
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