BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ahmed Jmaii, a truck driver from Buffalo, was supposed to address a group of Lovejoy residents Monday night to gain their support for him re-opening the IGA Community Expressmart on Ludington Street as a deli.
Jmaii refused to walk inside when he saw television cameras. Instead of addressing the 30 people in attendance, Arab American Business Association of Western New York President Adel Munassar spoke on Jmaii's behalf.
Without him available to answer questions, those gathered unanimously rejected the idea.
"I think if it was a location that was on one of the busier thoroughfares in the neighborhood, Lovejoy Street, William Street, Bailey Avenue, probably would have been very different, but the fact that it was plunked right in the middle of neighbors, I think is a real problem," said local resident Gail Maloney.
Residents say they have nothing against Jmaii, and that they hope he tries to open up shop elsewhere.
If he tries to move forward with the Ludington location, a special use permit is required to re-open the store because it has been closed for over a year.
It has to be approved by the full Common Council. Council Member Rich Fontana says he’ll follow the residents' advice and vote no.
Residents also voiced concerns with the couple who owns the building, Ahmed Alshami and his wife, Nadia Alhaj. He has previously been convicted of misuse of food stamps.
The store was shut down after a series of violations.
"If people have followed this story, they know there have been some challenges for our neighborhood with the previous owners, and the point was made this evening by some her that we would actually be helping that family, and people resented that," Maloney said.
Alshami was also charged with first-degree robbery in December after allegedly holding up a 7-Eleven.