On Wednesday night during the second round of neighborhood community meetings in the parish hall of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Malabeh took a seat in front of a friendlier group.
“I’ve seen him take food to different people in the neighborhood, dropping it off,” said Betty Williams. “All you gotta do is call him and he’ll take care of it.”
“I’ve seen the man give out groceries, and he don’t even get paid back,” added DeWayne Malone.
Several people noted things have been “quieter” around Malabeh’s store on the corner of Prast and Olive Street since 19-year-old Steven Chatman was gunned down Aug. 18.
While a host of west-side residents loudly criticized Malabeh for allowing groups of teens to gather outside the store during the first public meeting Sept. 14 - which drew a packed house inside the church as well as several public officials, including South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins - the store owner also had his supporters.
“The store owner can only control the store,” said Dwayne Benac. “He can’t control what happens outside the store.”
But Malabeh ingratiated himself even more to his neighbors by doing just that - hiring private security to control what happens outside his store.
“Security is not for the store,” Malabeh said. “It’s for the neighbors to be safe.”
But not all the west-siders Wednesday night were sold on Malabeh’s new quieter convenience store environment.
Rhonda Neal took issue with some of the products being sold inside the store, products such as the cigar papers used to roll marijuana “blunts.”
“The almighty dollar is good to have,” Neal said, “but it’s how you get it.”
Then there are the store hours. Malabeh is open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight.
An earlier closing hour, Neal said, could take away a place on the street for the late-night groups to hang out.
But, said Delores Branch, the midnight hour is convenient for people who work late.
“That store is convenient,” Branch said. “If it’s late and I need a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, I don’t have to walk to another store.”
After all, Branch added, walking in a neighborhood with abandoned houses is a risky proposition.
“I’d rather walk in the street than on the sidewalk,” she said, “because there’s less chance of somebody grabbing you up.”
Staff writer Jeff Harrell: