Vending machines operated by Bakersfield blind man, burglarized

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 21:51:44-05

Surveillance cameras captured burglars breaking into vending machines at rest stops along the Grapevine.

Machines operated by a blind Bakersfield man.

Willie Shoemaker is a legally blind business owner. He runs vending machines at two rest stops that sit on each side of the Grapevine in Lebec.

He’s been dealing with theft and damage to these vending machines for over three months.

“We take the money out every day. So what they’re getting is a maybe a few dollars that people put in while we’re not here. A little bit of change,” said Shoemaker.

But Shoemaker says it's the cost to repair and replace the damaged machines that are hurting his business.

“The damage to the machine is horrendous. For a while I‘ve been able to get the machines back up and running with spare equipment but now it’s just beyond repair,” added Shoemaker.

Shoemaker is able to operate his business under the Randolph-Shepard Act. A program that gives the visually impaired an opportunity to own their own business on state and federal property.

He says that because the machine owns are owned by the State of California, replacing the destroyed machines is a lengthy process – taking anywhere from three to six months to replace.

“During that time all of the sales are eliminated. I don’t get that.  And the products. People can’t come get coffee. When it’s cold and snowy out, kids can’t come get hot chocolate,” said Shoemaker.

He says his goal is to serve the traveling public by offering an array of items in his vending machine. The break-ins are getting in the way of that.

If you have any information contact the Fort Tejon California High Patrol office.