Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Two robbery attempts lead Largo convenience store owner to close shop

LARGO — The first time a man came into Steve Ryle's convenience store with a gun and demanded money, Ryle gave the man the money.

Police haven't found the man who robbed Steve's Qwik Stop on Dec. 19, though. And when a different man came into the store Saturday morning and pulled a gun, Ryle took a different approach. He pulled his own gun.

As soon as the would-be thief saw the 9mm gun in Ryle's hand, though, he ducked down and ran right back out the store. Ryle never got a shot off.

"Not a word was said," said Ryle, 60. "As soon as he saw it (the gun), he ran. He ran like a gun-shy dog."

Ryle stood behind the counter of his convenience store Tuesday recounting the story to a stranger. The store was lined in bright signs advertising items on sale for 30 and 40 percent off. Ryle was interrupted by a phone call; it was someone interested in buying his freezers.

After a robbery and an attempted robbery in less than a month, Ryle is closing his shop. Sunday will be the last day for Steve's Qwik Stop, after 3 1/2 years of business at the corner of a strip mall at 7500 Ulmerton Road, just east of Belcher Road.

Ryle thinks the two incidents are connected, and that the man who robbed him last month knows the man who tried to rob him Saturday. And since he is now the only witness to two unsolved crimes, Ryle thinks it's a good time to retire. He's not ready to retire, though.

"I'm angry," Ryle said. "I figured I'd be here for a few more years."

Largo police are still investigating both the Dec. 19 robbery and Saturday's attempted robbery. Ryle describes the man who tried to rob him Saturday as black, in his late teens or early 20s. He's between 5 feet 9 and 5 feet 11, Ryle says, and probably weighs about 150 to 170 pounds. He was dressed in dark pants and a black hooded sweatshirt.

Police are asking anyone with information about the crime to call (727) 587-6730.

Ryle opened the store after retiring from the trucking industry. He has no employees; all 94 hours the store is open each week Ryle is the only person behind the cash register. He has a computer and a television in the store, and says he didn't view the long hours as a hardship.

"It was basically like this was my living room. I could sit here and play poker online, or watch TV, and then people would come in and buy stuff," he said.

Ryle's landlord is understanding, he said, and is letting him out of his rental agreement. He's not sure what he's going to do with all his newfound free time, though.

"I'll figure it out," he said. "I'll see my kids, my grandkids. I'll go fishing. I haven't been fishing in four years."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

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