Saturday February 2, 2013

The Works Bakery Cafe is one of those companies that epitomizes the best of Vermont business.

It was started 25 years ago in Manchester (first called the Bagel Works) and quickly expanded to Keene, N.H. Over the years it has opened branches in Concord, Durham and Portsmouth, N.H., and Portland, Maine.

A little more than two years ago, The Works came back to Vermont and opened a beautiful storefront on Main Street in downtown Brattleboro. It has since become a favorite spot for many people to stop in, have a cup of coffee and a bagel and relax and chat.

The Works buys as much as it can from family farmers, avoids products containing pesticides, antibiotics and added hormones and doesn’t buy from confined animal feeding operations. Its coffee comes from a Rainforest Alliance Certified plantation in Costa Rica. It recycles and is working on expanding its composting program.

So it was with dismay that we learned The Works had fallen victim to a criminal or criminals who hacked into its computer system and stole many of its customers’ credit and debit card numbers. Over the past week or two, people have noticed unauthorized charges on their cards in locations around the country.

When The Works realized its system had been breached, it quickly contacted state and federal law enforcement, which are conducting an investigation.

Meanwhile, banks are urging customers of The Works to check their billing records for unauthorized purchases. We would recommend that people who used their cards at The Works in the past month or so, even if they haven’t seen irregularities in their billing accounts, cancel their cards and get new ones.

We would also urge our readers to continue to visit The Works and show your support. A blow like this can be devastating to a small business, but a community can help it to weather the storm.

The Works is doing what it can to prevent the same thing from happening again, but in an age when even governments and huge corporations fall victim to hackers, small businesses can be easy prey.

The only real way to prevent your card information from being stolen is to not use it; use cash or checks instead.

But we know that’s so 1980s. In this connected world, it’s almost impossible to conduct business without a plastic card. The best we can do to protect ourselves is by keeping an eye on our bank accounts and being alert for unauthorized charges.

The Works is the kind of business we would like to see continue to thrive -- conscientious, environmentally friendly and customer-oriented. The next time you’re on Main Street, stop in and say hello. We’re sure it would be appreciated.