BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Hours after their home and store caught fire, the owners of a Lovejoy neighborhood store aren’t getting much sympathy from their Common Council member.
“His own customers are trying to burn that store down” said Lovejoy Councilman Rich Fontana.
Early Thursday morning, someone set fire to the side of the IGA Community Express Mart on Ludington and Davey Streets, while the owners and their four children were in their home sleeping upstairs. The fire extinguished by itself but after sunrise, the charred remains of burnt siding were clearly visible on the side of the building.
“Why they want to burn my store?” said store owner, Nadia Alhaj. “People say on Facebook they want to shut it down. If they see wrong, why they not prove it to the government, prove it to Fontana, prove it to us. If they have a problem why don’t they come to me. Why they come to burn my house.”
This happened less than three weeks after store manager Ahmed Alshami posted a Facebook photo of himself giving the finger to those in the community he feels are trying to shut the store down. He also spent a week in jail last month after being in a car where crack cocaine was found.
Neighbors complain there’s drug activity around the store, but manager Ahmed Alshami says he can’t control what happens outside. “If there’s a drug sale outside, that’s not my problem, that’s his problem and the Police problem, not my problem.”
Councilman Fontana sees it differently. “It’s just his business practices in the store whether it’s selling loose cigarettes, selling Seneca cigarettes that are not taxed or anything like that just brings that type of criminal element around. So, I mean look, if you deal in the mud you’re gonna get muddy and that’s what he’s doing at this point. The Police are sick and tired of this store and quite frankly so am I at this point.”
Alshami and his wife are offering a $2,000 reward for information that directly leads to an arrest of the person responsible for setting fire to the side of his home and store.