Monday, March 7, 2011

113th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Maen Mdanat, owner of the Axis Food Mart and his three
children, Petra (left) Rayah and Michael enjoy an In and Out
Burger lunch at Axis.
I was almost finished with my rounds on Sunday when I stopped to talk to a neighbor on 12th Street. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned I worked mornings at the Axis Food Mart.

“Tell me something,” he asked, “why should they get a liquor license. Circle K and Safeway sell liquor. Why do we need another liquor store in the neighborhood?”

Even if there is a license involved, I don’t think competition in business should ever be restricted. If competition is restrictions, the consumer always pays higher prices. But I could tell my neighbor was not looking for a lesson in capitalism. He lived right behind the Axis Food Mart and has dealt with homeless folks drinking and messing up the alley for years.

The former owner of Axis allowed all kinds of unneighborly activities around his store. But 15 months ago a new owner, Maen Mdanat took control of Axis and the homeless problem abated, mostly because Maen, in his twenties, was a special forces soldier in the Jordanian Army before coming to America. Although his nature is to be kind and giving, confrontation is not something Maen finds distasteful. The homeless had to behave and not trespass and drink in the alley or they would face arrest. Recently, a number of neighbors told me they are surprised by the very small number of homeless in the neighborhood lately. “It’s all Maen’s doing,” I’d say.

Chatting in the Parking Lot
Sunday night, Maen and I were standing in the front of his store talking about my conversation with our neighbor earlier in the day when a patrol car drove across the Axis parking lot and Cherry Street and parked in the Circle K lot facing Broadway. A minute or two later a patrol car drove slowly east on Broadway in front of the Circle K and the parked patrol car shining a spotlight on a fenced off home on the far side of the street.

As soon at the patrol car’s spotlight passed the fenced off home, a young man inside the fence jumped up and scurried over the fence. He darted across Broadway and headed straight for the parked patrol car.

Maen sprang into action because he saw the office was going to be slow exiting the patrol car and wouldn’t catch the runner.

Like a defensive back Maen adjusted his speed and angle as he shot across Cherry arriving just in time to grab the runner’s hooded jersey which the runner abandoned immediately. The officer, who had long legs was by now in pursuit of the runner behind Maen. But those long legs gained no ground on Maen’s piston-action sprint. The runner was the first to reach 12th Street and turn left into the darkness with Maen hot on his tail.

I picked up the hoodie and headed down Cherry toward 12th Street. Before I reached the corner, Maen appeared, not breathless at all which surprised me because it was such an adrenalin-filled sprint. He took the hoodie back around the corner and gave it to the officer.

When he joined me again on Cherry, I asked Maen what happened and he said it got really dark as soon as they turned the corner so he moved in on the runner and pushed him to the ground, holding the guy down with his knee in the guy’s back. Two or three seconds later the officer ran up with gun in hand. “That was the scary part,” Maen said, “considering how dark it was.”

We walked back to the store. Maen stooped to pick up several pieces of his cell phone off the street. It had popped out of its holder on his hip during the chase. The pieces all went back together and the phone worked fine.

So tell Me Again Why We Need Another Liquor License?
Although the process of things often distracts us—stores, homeless, drinking, and broken bottles in an alley—we forget that none of that really matters. It’s always the people and the character of those people.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that the fates allowed Maen to move into our neighborhood. With his special talents and unique experience he makes me feel safe and every one of my neighbors protected.

Now it’s our turn to protect Maen and his business so he can compete in the marketplace. I am going to do everything I can to make him feel welcome in Miles. And if I am ever again asked why we need another liquor license in our neighborhood I will say, “Actually, we need Maen and if he comes with a liquor license, so be it.”

Still Showing Our Appreciation
Remember when Quaker Oats awarded us that $500 grant way back when to pay for signage on the car and our display table? Well, every time I see an opportunity to promote them I do. I know it’s nice…but they were nice, first.

We collected a total of 146 lbs. of food, including 10 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $36.50, $11.50 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,


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