LARGO — The lone customer in a quiet Largo thrift shop Monday asked to see the Coach purses locked beneath the cash register.
He was smiling, wearing a tie and dress pants. His dark hair was slicked back. And under a yellow button-up shirt sleeve, he hid a steak knife.
A 25-year-old female employee at Off the Rack on Ulmerton Road said the man grabbed her shoulder as she reached for the designer bags, spun her around and held the blade to her back.
He forced her into a fitting room, she said, then snatched $600 from a cash drawer before making his getaway in what appeared to be a gold Crown Victoria.
On Tuesday in Oldsmar, employees at Sun Country Cleaners on Tampa Road reported a similar crime: A man, armed with a knife, demanded money and left in a gold Mercury Grand Marquis.
By Tuesday night, authorities had arrested Michael Roger Bourdeau, 45, of Pinellas Park in connection with what they say was a two-day string of armed robberies. Investigators in at least four Pinellas law enforcement agencies were in the process of charging Bourdeau or determining whether to charge him for similar crimes.
Between Monday and Tuesday afternoon, stores in Largo, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Oldsmar were robbed by what employees described as a man over 6 feet tall, 250 pounds, clean-shaven and wielding a long, sharp culinary knife.
One of the locations hit was the Blew Chocolate Hair Salon at 2140 Drew St. in Clearwater. According to Clearwater police, employees said a man entered the store Tuesday with a "large knife," demanded money and then fled in a beige or gold Mercury Grand Marquis.
Pinellas deputies soon found a suspicious car outside the Coastal Plaza shopping center in Dunedin. They saw a man fitting the description leave a store and stopped him as he pulled onto Main Street.
Before he was arrested, deputies said, Bourdeau rammed a sheriff's cruiser. No injuries were reported.
On Tuesday night Bourdeau, who was arrested in March for cocaine possession, was being booked into the Pinellas County Jail on multiple counts of armed robbery. It was not clear yet how many charges he would face.
At Off the Rack in Largo, store owner Kathy Stearns, 42, was counting her losses but also feeling grateful that her employee was okay.