By Robin Alberti
In mid-June Don Pitaniello, 58, of Rutland, thwarted a robbery at Mac’s Convenience Store at 145 North Main Street in Rutland by drawing a gun on a knife-wielding robber Sunday night, June 15. He was subsequently suspended from his job as a clerk at the convenience store.
Upon hearing this, folks in the Rutland community started a Facebook page called “Boycotting Mac’s,” which now has over 875 members. This past Saturday, July 19, members of the group and other locals organized a gathering in front of Mac’s Convenient Store on North Main Street to picket.
The boycott and Saturday’s picketing event were designed to call attention to the injustice done. The group supports Pitianiello, who said he had defended himself by using his legally carried concealed weapon while working as a cashier at Mac’s when he was robbed at knifepoint. No one was injured as the result of the incident, and the robber left the store without further incident.
But Pitianiello was in violation of Mac’s policy of no firearms at work. Pitianiello did expect to be reprimanded, he said. But when he attended a meeting with Jennifer Allen, owner of Mac’s Market chain, rather than a typical reprimand (which could include being dismissed from his job) Allen proceeded to verbally vilify him, he said. She accused him of being a liar, and left him no choice but to quit, he added. This was his second job. He took it on to help with his family stay afloat with mounting medical bill due to his wife’s medical condition. Don Pitianiello is a Vietnam veteran.
Since this incident, many people in the community consider Pitianiello a hero, and are outraged by the treatment he received from his former employer. Since this incident, many past employees have come forward to share their stories of mistreatment by Allen. From management to cashiers, there is consistency in the stories of mistreatment by owner Jennifer Allen, the group says.
Since the boycott was made public, Allen has contacted business vendors and threatened to stop doing business with them if any of their employees are members of the Facebook group boycotting her stores. This is further evidence that of her “out of control behavior,” the group cites. Additionally, Allen took out a “No Trespass Warrant” on Don Pitianiello, for seemingly no reason. He had done nothing to harass Allen, Mac’s stores, or any of its current employees, the group maintains.
Richard Majka, a member of the Facebook group and attendee of the picketing Saturday told The Mountain Times, “I don’t think it is right how Ms. Allen had treated Don. Rutland has changed; it is not as safe as it used to be. People need to stand up and fight against the increase in crime. Don did that, and we are proud of him. More people need to have the guts to say this is not ok.”
“This is not a Second Amendment issue,” Pitianiello told The Mountain Times. “We are trying to bring awareness to the mistreatment of employees. And if this also brings awareness to the community about the rising crime and drug problem in Rutland, that’s good too.”
Rutland Country Store on North Main Street in Rutland hired Don Pitianiello soon after he left Mac’s. “I get less hours there, but they (Rutland Country Store) treat their employees with respect, and I feel safer,” he said.
On Saturday, simulateously with the picketing event, Allen was giving away free coffee, and reduced the price of gas by 20 cents per gallon.