ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The new “ground zero” for the recent unrest in St. Louis may be the 7-Eleven store in downtown St. Louis. It appears to be a complete loss after it was set on fire. Rioters then allegedly tried to keep firefighters from putting it out, Monday night.
“It’s like you’re watching a movie,” said Abe Eshein, owner of the franchise for the past 30 years. “It’s unbelievable when you watch it. I was sitting at home. I watched it like everybody else on TV. I was watching my place burn on live TV.”
The store was closed. It had been closing early this week because of potential threats to his customers and workers during the unrest.
The 7-Eleven at 17th and Pine was something of a landmark for those who live nearby and those who come downtown for events like concerts and ballgames.
“After the Cardinal games, I come here because it’s the only place open at night time. Now we don’t have any place. It’s sad,” said customer, Pete Butler.
Butler had been part of a peaceful protest of 1,000 or more who marched through Downtown and gathered under the Arch hours earlier.
“People ask me ‘are you angry?’ No, I am not angry, just hurt,” said Eshein. “(I’m) worried about my employees, about my customers, about myself to a certain degree. “
The store had about 24 workers, most of whom lived nearby. He also worried about the firefighters who came to help with rioters and looters still at the store.
Firefighters were then pelted with rocks and bricks as gunfire swirled, according to St. Louis Fire Chief, Dennis Jenkerson. After containing the fire, they had to leave the scene and come back to put it out later.
“We had people blocking our paths, laying down in front of us, putting dumpsters in front of us, trash cans in front of us. It delayed our response,” said Jenkerson.
“There was a whole lot going on. To hear the amount of gunfire going on around us, going past us, and trying to determine was the rock that just went in front of you or was it a ‘round’ that went off in front of you. It’s just a matter of ‘right now it’s not safe for us to continue what we’re doing’. We made the area safe. We knew where that fire was going to stay. We just bailed out,” said Jenkerson.
They returned to completely douse the fire about 40 minutes later.
“It is sad that so few people can have such a devastating impact on a whole community, a negative impact. I look at the protesters and I see them as the victims of this because it’s taking away from their message. Instead of people talking about the issues they’re supposed to be talking about, now we’re talking about the store being burned and everything else. That’s the sad thing about it,” said Eshein.
“There were 14 city buildings set on fire in the city Monday night and early Tuesday morning, plus nine dumpsters, four cars, and five large piles of trash,” said Jenkerson.
The investigations have gone federal with the ATF taking the lead.
7 Eleven Corporate Statement:
“We can confirm that a St. Louis 7-Eleven store has sustained damage from looting. We are grateful that neither the Store Team nor customers were injured. We understand the feelings of injustice in our society and seek a future that is abundant with dignity and respect for all people.”