Couple struggles to reopen store



Like she had done countless times before, Angelina Dhillon on Aug. 17 cooked dinner for her husband, Harjit Shergill, and brought it to him while he worked a late afternoon shift at their Calaveras County store.

Dhillon was manning the register at the couple's Altaville Food & Liquor Market and Shergill was eating when a Lincoln Town Car crashed into their store.

A wall and two windows were smashed, and a 7-foot cigarette rack fell on Dhillon. Albert Frank Tunsen, 49, of Arnold, was later arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

That was three weeks ago. The store remains closed. Dhillon is still in pain.

"Basically, it's killing us. We don't get welfare, food stamps, none of that. (The store) is our only income. It's our life," the 25-year-old woman said.

Tunsen pleaded not guilty at his Aug. 19 arraignment, and remains in custody at the Calaveras County Jail in lieu of $45,000 bail. His next court appearance is set for Monday, Sept. 15.

Two large windows broke in the wreck and remain boarded up. Bricks at the front of the store, located across from Bret Harte High School, are crushed.

The store's temporary closure has taken its toll on Dhillon and Shergill. They are not only supporting themselves, but their 11-month-old son, Harmann, who spent yesterday running around the store.

"The insurance company thinks of this as just a liquor store," Dhillon said. "This is our only income. We feed our child off of that money."

The couple is waiting on their insurance company to OK a contractor's estimate to fix the damage. Dhillon said she hopes repairs will begin next week and will take about no longer than a week to complete.

A majority of the market's customers are Angels Camp residents, but tourists also frequent the store, she said. Tobacco and beer are the market's best sellers. About 150 cartons of cigarettes are sold each week, and if the store doesn't open by the end of the month, about 250 cases of beer will go stale.

The Union Democrat
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