ELYRIA — A new business has been opened in downtown Elyria by one of the operators of Shopway Food Mart, which the city had shuttered this spring for alleged illegal activities that made it a nuisance to the neighborhood.
Thaer Mustafa has turned an empty storefront into a cell phone retailer. The newest venture, IMT Wireless, opened in early July. The new store is located next to Powerhouse Gym and Metro PCS and sells cell phones, cell phone accessories and clothing.
Mustafa has been using Facebook to direct former Shopway customers to the new location and the responses from supporters have been great with social media friends congratulating him on the opening.
Despite the pending court case to determine the fate of Shopway, attorney Michael Stepanik, who represents Mustafa, said there is nothing prohibiting Mustafa from opening a new business.
“A nuisance case does not stop anyone from earning a living,” he said.
Additionally, Stepanik said Mustafa is not worried about the stigma of being associated with Shopway.
“If he thought that way, he wouldn’t have opened,” Stepanik said. “The fact is I think there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have and will patronize his business because of the good he has done in the city.”
Mustafa is one of two former Shopway employees local authorities charged with selling spice, a synthetic form of marijuana. His case and that of a second former employee, Hesham Ayyad, are pending in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
Elyria Law Director Scott Serazin said several people have told him about the new business, including residents that are worried about the clientele the store may draw.
“But I know it’s not the kind of place you can get a liquor license,” he said. “It’s a commercial district with no parking lot for people to hang around in, so it will be a different situation.”
Police Capt. Chris Costantino said so far officers have not fielded any complaints to the address.
“I just want them to operate their business in a lawful and respectful way,” he said. “That’s all we ever wanted from Shopway and it’s what we want for any business in Elyria. We welcome business, but it has to follow the laws and city ordinances.”
As for the original Shopway, it remains closed. A temporary restraining order shuttered the business, and Serazin is hoping for a permanent order.
On Monday night members of City Council’s Community Development Committee unanimously voted for the city to object to the renewal of the business’s liquor license as a safeguard in the off chance the city loses its fight to keep Shopway closed.