Owners of former Munchie Mart seeking council approval again

The owners of a Western Avenue convenience store formerly known as Munchie Mart will go before the council Monday night seeking a special exception to zoning that would allow them to expand.

They made a similar request in November, but withdrew their petition after a lack of support from residents and council members.

Since then, managers at the store say they've made several changes. Among the most noticeable is the name; the store is now called Rick's Place.

Managers also met with concerned neighbors to discuss what other improvements they could make.

"We implemented an additional camera in the back," said manager Herbert Miller. "We tried to cleanup where we could cleanup. We put up new loitering signs."

But, some residents still aren't satisfied. Wendell Johnson lives just around the corner from the store and says he's concerned about the type of business it attracts and what happens just outside its doors.

"There have been cigarette sales that are illegal and things of that nature," he said. "We really don't need a gas station in that area."

He's worried if Rick's Mart is allowed to expand and add gas pumps, it will result in more problems.

But, the controversy surrounding the small star is part of a larger challenge that stretches all the way down Western Avenue.

City leaders and residents say there isn't enough development in the area and the right businesses aren't being attracted.

"I'm in favor of investment, I'm in favor of the city stepping up and creating a plan for the Western Avenue Corridor," said Councilman Henry Davis Jr. "But, what I'm not in favor of is we continue to do hodge podge ideas and we continue to do things that add a negative impact in that area."

Davis Jr. and Council Vice President Oliver Davis are both hopeful the discussion about Rick's Mart at Monday's meeting will help emphasize the need for a Western Avenue Corridor development plan.

They've asked city administration to help address the issue.

"As we look at what is left on the west side, we want to build that area up to the promise it once had," Oliver Davis said. "And, we've asked the city to help us with that."

Johnson says he's hopeful they'll come up with a plan soon. He'd like to see an actual grocery store near his home and fewer used car lots.

He says if the city doesn't make Western Avenue a priority, bad businesses will continue to pop up and cause problems for residents.

"If they don't come up with a concrete plan, then we will have chaos up and down this corridor," he said.

A public hearing on the special exception for Rick's Mart is scheduled during the regular council meeting on Monday at 7 p.m.

Council members weren't in favor of the idea back in November, but say they'll listen to what the owner has to say and consider the changes he's implemented.

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