Jewish Shopkeeper Survives Hatchet Attack

Published: April 23rd 2010
in News » Local

Pawnbroker David Woolfson
Pic: Maureen Belej
Woolfson's pawnshop
Pic: Maureen Belej

On the first day of March, what started out as a typical work day for Edmonton-based Jewish pawnbroker David Woolfson turned into a day that nearly cost him his life, one that he will never forget.


Taken by surprise, the 76-year old was struck in the back of the head with the blunt end of a hatchet, and then robbed. Woolfson was rushed to hospital shortly after customers found him bleeding on the floor behind his counter at A1 Trading Pawnshop. His wounds required 80 stitches to close.


56-year old Kenneth Angus Campbell from St. Albert just northwest of Edmonton has since been charged with robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.


Shalom Lifesat down with the pawnbroker to talk about the incident, his advice for other shopkeepers, and his plans for the future.


When asked about the attack, Woolfson told Shalom Life: “It was someone who premeditated this. He came in three or four times, looked around, made himself friendly. I am lucky to be alive. He went to get a hatchet that he wanted to buy from me and then he hit me with it. He hit me in the back of the head. If he would have hit me a little lower I would have died.”


When asked what kind of advice he would give to other shopkeepers around the country, Woolfson says, “Be awake. Be awake.” He suggests that suspicious characters should be asked to leave when one’s intuition tells them so. Shopkeepers may also want to consider where and how they display potentially dangerous goods, and to ensure that security cameras, once in place, are in good working order.


Even though Woolfson still shows the marks of the attack, he appears to have his sense of humour back.


Once you spend even a few minutes in the shop, it becomes evident that Woolfson, who immigrated to Edmonton from Zimbabwe and is a member of the local Beth Israel Synagogue, has a strong rapport with the local community and knows many of his customers by name. Despite being located in a rougher area of downtown Edmonton, he has avoided major incidents prior to this one, isolated attack. “This area is turning around and I really think this area is going to get better and better,” said Woolfson.


He jests that although he originally retired 35 years ago, he is ready to hang up his hat again. He looks forward to doing some traveling and spending more quality time with his four children and grandchildren.


As for the new owner, another experienced pawnbroker, he says he looks forward to running the shop, and to working with Woolfson’s existing customer base. He plans to stay in the pawn business until he retires as well, though not likely at 76.


An award-winning documentary was produced about Woolfson and the business of pawning in 2008, entitled Broke. The film has been featured in numerous film festivals, and according to Woolfson, has had renewed interest among the public since the incident.

Related articles: (pawnbroker, broke, pawnshop, david woolfson, edmonton, documentary)
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