Fire guts Obama Meat Market; owner vows to rebuild

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(KTVI) - Early Monday morning, an immigrant from Jerusalem watched a fire in North St. Louis and said his life savings burned along with his store.

 

“All my investments, all my savings, everything I put in that store.”

 

The Obama Meat Market burned just after five a.m.  Owner Obama Shalabi rushed to his shop on East Grand Blvd. and 20th Street, when the burglar alarm sounded at the market.

 

“This is the second time,” Shalabi explained.  “Last year, we had a fire in the back of the building and we fixed it up.”

 

When crews saw the store was already burning - and the fire was spreading - supervisors called for two alarms.

 

“The manpower to get water on the fire.  We have two separate structures fully-involved here,” said St. Louis Fire Captain Dan Sutter.  “So, it takes quite a bit of water to try to keep those fires under control and stop it from spreading.”

 

There were two alarms for two reasons, the second being the bitter cold.

 

“We have a light breeze and it’s blowing a lot of that water mist around, and everyone’s coated with ice from head to toe,” There was precipitation that night.  But, Sutter’s uniform looked like it was covered in snowflakes. 

 

Customers also stood in the cold and watched, as if the store belonged to them.

 

“Everyone in the hood comes here,” said Stevie McNeal, a customer and neighbor. 

 

The market sold fresh produce, meat and other groceries in an area that some customers called “dry”.

 

“We have to go down to Schnucks (Supermarkets), and a lot of folks can’t make it there.  A lot of the elder folks can’t go.”

 

Obama’s was empty.  Shalabi said the business next door was vacant.  Fire investigators said no one was hurt.

 

“I will build it back up,” Shalabi smiled, while watching firefighters hit his store with high-pressure water cannons.  “I will be back.  I’m not giving up.”

 

Shalabi said the last fire was electrical.  Investigators continued to look for a cause in Monday’s fire.

 

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