Owner of Lovejoy Corner Store Demands Proof, Claiming Some Hold Vendetta

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The IGA Community Express Mart at the corner of Ludington and Davey streets in Buffalo's Lovejoy district is running out of chances. The store has racked up a series of violations over the past year, and the owners showed up 40 minutes late to Monday's disciplinary hearing at City Hall, saying they got lost.

"We eventually found it at 10:40, 10:35. We went up there and they told us it was too late," said Zahoor Ali, the owner's daughter.

Some of the violations they face include selling secondhand merchandise without a license, untaxed cigarettes, glass pipes and blunts. They have also been cited several times for garbage in their yard.

Council member Richard Fontana says there are also drug deals done on the corner associated with the store, and even says there was a girl shooting up heroin inside recently.

"The repairman of the equipment tells me they actually saw the girl in the back, and then saw her stumble out the front door," said Fontana, D-Lovejoy District.

Store owner Nadia Alhaj says she feels Fontana has a vendetta against her family, and when it comes to drug issues, she is demanding he provides proof.

"Did he get anybody with drugs, did they catch anybody inside or outside the business with drugs, selling drugs or any activity?" Alhaj asked.

Fontana says the drug activity comes in large part from Alhaj's husband, Ahmed Alshami.

"Drives around on a moped all night doing drug deals all night long. We chase him around. We find out Buffalo Police are investigating that," Fontana said.

Fontana said Monday that Alshami indicated to him previously that he served as a police informant. Alshami's daughter says that's not true and it's irresponsible.

"He shouldn't have said that if he had no proof. Now, we're getting threats. That's just something that you don't say out of the blue on the news. That's a threat for all of us. We could all die over something he said. That's a lie," Ali said.

The hearing has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 25.

While there is bad blood between the store owners and Fontana, that hearing will not mean the end of the store, for now. Fontana says the store will face new strict guidelines, and if those are not met, the store could close in three months.

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