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Mini-mall opens at site of Wendy’s massacre

Abdul Aleem, an insurance agent, has decided to take a $2,600-a-month risk and open a newsstand. He knows full well that his fledging business could fold given the notoriety of the building in Flushing where he opened it. It’s also the first time he has tried his hand at selling sodas and gum and candy and newspapers.

But if Friday was any indication of how his business will fare in the long run, he said, there is little to fret over.

Aleem, 36, is one of 17 small-business owners who are renting out space in a mini-mall — the former Wendy’s restaurant where five people were murdered and two others wounded last May during a robbery — that opened on Main Street last week. It was the first time since the massacre that the public was permitted in the building.

Some who stopped in on Friday were actually there to shop for such items as cellular phones and jewelry, clothes and shoes. Many, though, were quizzical passersby who simply wanted to walk through a building where one of the grisliest crimes of late had occurred.

Steven Lee, who manages a cellular phone booth near the entrance of the mini-mall, said that in time people would forget about the murders that happened there. He owns another cellular phone store in Flushing and said Main Street offers a propitious business opportunity, considering the number of people who use the subway and buses down the block and right outside.

But he refuses to go down into the basement and does not know if he ever will. That is where the seven workers were brought, bound and gagged, and shot execution-style. Five of them died.

The tenants say it is too early to tell what impact, if any, the massacre might have on businesses. A friend of Aleem’s said crime happens all the time in the city and in this particular case, he believes customers will look beyond that when deciding whether to shop at the mini-mall. “We’re hoping for the best,” Aleem said.

For almost a year, the former Wendy’s remained boarded up and unused, the plywood boards serving as a tablet on which friends and relatives of the victims penned elegiac messages. In February, a Flushing businessman, Ben Wong, bought the property at 40-12 Main St. from a Whitestone realtor whose family had owned it for nearly a half century.

On the one-year anniversary of the murders, a ceremony was held at the Flushing Library, down the block from the former restaurant, at which Wong’s representatives made an $18,000 contribution to the library. The money will be used to fund an after-school program for one year.

Craig Godineaux, one of the two men accused in the murders and robbery, pleaded guilty in February and is serving five consecutive life terms in prison. The other man, John Taylor, is awaiting trial and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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