THONOTOSASSA (FOX 13) - A man who grows Bonsai trees says a pair of thieves broke in and stole thousands of dollars of his work. While a surveillance camera didn't get a close look at the suspects, the owner of Artisans Bonsai on East Fowler Avenue is hoping someone will recognize the unique and expensive trees and help bring them back to where they belong.
Some people create art with brushes. Others, like Joe Cain, create art with branches.
"It's fun. It's like painting or something," Cain said. "It gives us a chance to, kind of like, play with Mother Nature."
Cain spends years growing, wiring, pruning and perfecting Bonsai trees for his nursery. "They're priceless to me," Cain said.
But a pair of thieves saw a price tag. Wednesday, April 25, around 11:30 p.m., they broke in, stealing two of Cain's best Juniper Bonsais.
"I saw the one missing and I went, 'oh no,'" Cain recalled. "And, I looked back out here and saw the other one missing and I went, 'oh no, come on.'"
The only evidence was some spilled soil on the ground.
"Those things were starting to put out berries. They were so happy," Cain said. "It just makes me sick because they'll put them inside and they'll start dying."
A nearby surveillance camera showed the Bonsai burglars parked their truck and were over the fence and back in 10 minutes. The two stolen trees were worth a total of $7,500.
"It rips my heart out. I was depressed for a week," Cain said. "It just really hurt. To think that it's probably somebody that's been here, that kind of upsets me."
The following Sunday, it happened again. This time, Cain says they got away with four or five Pre-Bonsais worth about $800. Since then, he's been scouring tree sales websites.
"Those trees are out there. Somebody's got them," Cain said.
He's even offering a reward for the return of his prized Bonsais. It's not about money. Those particular Juniper Bonsais weren't even for sale. But, after all the work he's poured into those trees, losing just one, he said, is like losing a pet.
"If the person who took them wants to return them they are more than welcome to, no questions asked, I'll let them walk away," Cain said. "I just want my tree, that's all. You see, it's already choking me up."
Security changes are already in effect at Artisans Bonsai so this can't happen a third time. There's now barbed wire on the fence, surveillance cameras rolling, and even an armed guard overnight. Cain said that coming back to steal more trees would not be recommended.