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Bungled burglary is viral hit, advertising gold for California deli

April 24, 2013|By Hector Becerra

When a  burglar pulled some pantyhose over his head and threw a rock into the window of Kent’s Meat and Groceries in Northern California, Kent Pfrimmer saw $500 in damages.

Rocky Slaughter of Sugar Pine Media saw a golden opportunity. The 25-year-old  advertiser took surveillance video of the rotund, would-be-thief’s bumbling star turn, sped it up and turned it into a TV commercial complete with “Benny Hill” music. The tagline proclaims: “Kent’s Meat and Groceries, award-winning New York style pastrami so good, some people will do just about anything to get more.”

The commercial for the Redding deli was featured on national TV shows, including “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. Pfrimmer was interviewed by CNN, giving his New York-style pastrami a big-time turn under the spotlight.

Slaughter told The Times on Wednesday he was originally hired in February to build a website for the business in an effort to launch an online store that would allow Pfrimmer to sell pastrami and other sausages across the country.

But when the general manager of the store showed him the surveillance video of the hapless burglar, Slaughter found a way to capitalize on it.

“Instantly I knew it would be a popular video," he said.

The whole store found the idea amusing, but Pfrimmer took a little longer to warm up to it. A generational divide could have partly explained that: the store owner is 45 years older than the advertising wizard he hired.

“He’s run a mom-and-pop shop for 30 years, and he’s a little conservative when it comes to the Internet,” Slaughter said.

Conservative might be putting it mildly -- the 70-year-old Pfrimmer said he doesn’t own a computer or a cellphone, though he does have a fax machine in his office. He knew his employees were getting a good laugh about the surveillance video, but he didn’t see much humor in the situation, and resisted watching.

“At my age, what the hell am I going to do on a computer?” Pfrimmer said.

When Slaughter asked him about turning it into a commercial, he was hesitant.

“Well, my thing is you can ride a good horse to death. It’s beyond my belief what created all this attention,” Pfrimmer said. “I guess it’s just because people got nothing else to do but sit and play on their computer.”

In the original video, which went viral after being featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” CNN and Tosh.O, the burglar stands in front of the glass doors with nylons over his head, making him look like a jester. He’s wearing what appears to be pajama pants. The burglar pulls the nylons over his head, momentarily disappears from the screen and reappears only to throw a rock into the window in a vain attempt to break into the store. At one point, he runs into the parking lot and falls face first.

Slaughter said he took it as a compliment when Pfrimmer saw the commercial and laughed.

“He’s not a really openly emotional person,” he said, “so the laughing he does is only when something is really funny. It’s a big deal when he laughs.”

Slaughter said he was tired of Redding and other far north California communities only making national news when something bizarre happened. He cited the case in nearby Anderson in which KFC employees were captured in photos bathing in the restaurant’s large sinks.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to turn this into a positive,’ ” Slaughter said.

Pfrimmer said despite his original misgivings about the commercial, he thinks it’s unseemly to complain. After all, for the cost of a botched $500 burglary attempt, he jokes that he got $500,000 worth of advertising.

““Look at the amount of exposure we got for $500," he said. "How can I be unhappy about what I got?”

As for the burglar, he was never caught. He’s heard from customers that he may have shopped at the store. Some people say they’ve seen him around Redding.

Pfrimmer said a month before the burglar shattered his window, another man threw an ax through it. But that went unnoticed, Pfrimmer said, probably because that man’s criminal exploits weren’t accompanied by funny clothes and comic pratfalls.

“This guy was a real goofball,” he said.

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Twitter: @LATimesHekutor 

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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