State Sues to Close Midtown Convenience Store; Is City Trying to De-Funk Midtown?

Acting through the Harris County Attorney's Office, the State of Texas is suing the Fannin Food Mart and the property's landlord, Jae Kim. The state claims that the property is a public nuisance and neither Fannin Food Mart's registered agent Azeem Ali Noorani nor Kim have done anything to abate the problems despite being admonished to do so.

The store in question is located at 2111 Fannin and is adjacent to the Greyhound station on Main. It is also known as the Tiger Mart, and it once housed a Creole lunch counter and still is home to a doughnut shop.

The state's suit portrays the 24-hour market as a veritable hive of scum and villainy, a place where the crooked Fannin Street of Tom Waits song lives on ("Don't go down to Fannin Street...You'll be lost and never found, you can never turn around, don't go down...to Fannin Street.")

According to the suit, HPD has logged almost 200 calls to the store since August, and in the last 12 months, HPD has arrested one person for cocaine dealing, four others for cocaine possession and two others for prostitution.

Cops have also been called out to investigate an aggravated assault and two robberies at the location. The suit claims that the market's owner and the property's landlord have "knowingly tolerated this and allowed such activity to occur habitually on the property," and as such, it constitutes a public nuisance.

The suit goes on to say that as it is currently run, the store "would proximately cause a person of ordinary sensibilities to be substantially frightened, discomforted, annoyed, and inconvenienced in the use of any premises surrounding the property."

The suit requests that a bond of no less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 be paid to ensure that the store cleans up its act. Should the store continue in its allegedly wicked ways, the bond would be forfeited to the state and the store would be shuttered for one year.

If Google's reviewers are to be believed, the general public shares the state's dim view of the store. The Fannin Texaco Food Market has received three reviews, all of them one-star.

"Dirty," reads one in full; "Bums and lots of them," reads another. A third alleges racism perpetrated by the Middle Eastern clerks. The reviewer says that one of the "3-4 racist Arabics" working there refused to accept 40 pennies in partial payment for a bottle of PowerAde and said that "You think since your white we are going to serve you and that you know everything."

Wow. All we can say is that we've been in there personally dozens of times over the years and we've never experienced anything more annoying or discomforting than the usual Midtown panhandling. We can't help but wonder if this is the first salvo in the long-held dream of many a neo-Midtowner: that City Hall will launch a developer-backed onslaught to "clean up" the area around the Greyhound station.

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39 comments
pancho villa
pancho villa

thats what happens when you move to the ghetto.

GlenW
GlenW

I hate Tom Waits!

Alex Colvin
Alex Colvin

You forgot to mention they had their liquor license yanked a while back. More state bullying?Or should we just let these filthy stores flourish as the urban cesspools they're so good at being? Trust me, the C-store owners are not "innocent" victims. It's their property. They  get to decide who's on it or not -- including panhandlers and dopers. 

jill
jill

I've never felt safe in that area, but usually avoid it. The worst problem I've had in that area is panhandlers (which is pretty bad all over downtown). That and pedestrians not caring too much about the cars in the front of them. Im amazed not more people get hit downtown.

Pferonti
Pferonti

I think the city should clean the whole corner up staring with the grayhound sttion.

AtaboyLuther
AtaboyLuther

I saw two gentlemen fighting over a life sized blowup sex doll in the parking lot of this gas station a few years ago.  And remember thinking to myself, you don't see that every day.

Tim
Tim

If they would get rid of the Greyhound station crime would drop dramatically in Midtown. Lets try it out and see what happens.

Wanderer23
Wanderer23

I thought they were the occupy Houston protesters.

Ratm
Ratm

I have been to that store many, many times. I used to go to Nawlins all the time to get their shrimp po boys. It was like a bun with an entire basket of fried scrimps dumped on it, and it was fantastic! I miss Nawlins like crazy!!!

But, anyway, I really think the problem is all the homeless bums in the area, and the greyhound station. I don't know if it's true or not, but I was told that convicted felons are put on the greyhound with $50 in their pocket, and that station is where they get off. I believe it too. I've asked for money by 2 different dudes that said "c'mon mang, I just got out tha joint - gimme somethin'"

Anybody ever notice that the store in question had 3 different "vibes" to it? I could go into Nawlins, get my food, and never have a problem. If I just stopped to get gas I would get hit up for money every. single. time. If I went into the store for any reason I was just basically annoyed. The workers there are most definitely rude, but I don't blame them. They have to work there and see that stuff all day every day.

native houstonian 1974
native houstonian 1974

That was built for First City National Bank for the Drive Thru, it was shut down when Texas Commerce Bank bought First City in 1993.

Gringo At Padre's
Gringo At Padre's

The City of Houston and HPD once told me that since the Greyhound terminal is privately owned they were unable to provide security on and off the premises. This despite the Greyhound station being a major portal for travelers (albeit lower income) into the city. Let's contrast that approach with both airports, where nothing out of the ordinary is at all tolerated and absolutely no expense is spared at projecting a clean image. When I complained about cabs standing in the cab zone and refusing customers (dealing drugs instead of taking fares)- nothing... Crime in and around the area? Nothing. This was back in 2000/2001- pre light rail. I agree the scene there is rough, but I think HPD, vice and the sheriff's dept should clean up an obvious public right of way problem before oppressing a private business. Surely the operators of the c-store have been victimized by shoplifters and verbally and physically aggressive folks as much as anyone else in that zone. If they're selling beers to already intoxicated individuals, that's a matter for the TABC and a different issue. Lastly, if the police have been called 200 times, why not station a patrol RIGHT THERE?! - David Beebe

try it
try it

Why all this worry about being held up or what ever ? Get a CHL,  grow up don't be afraid to bust a cap. I know I don't have a problem with doing it.

Creg
Creg

i saw a guy carrying a huge chrome dirty harry pistol at that bus station once. he looked psychotic.

Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith

I won't lie; I avoid that store and the area around the Greyhound station as much as I possibly can after dark.  Shit, who doesn't?  But we've got to have SOMETHING open 24 hours in Midtown.  I'm not entirely sure what the city feels the store owner should be doing short of hiring security to shoo away the dealers and pimps, but a couple of big-ass floodlights might not be the worst idea in the world.  

Kylejack
Kylejack

This is absolutely absurd. If HPD doesn't like how much they're called out for this part of town, maybe they should get out there and enforce the law and start putting some criminals in jail. How is it a property owner's fault that there are people attacking each other? Unless the owner is complicit in the actual crimes this is the fault of the police, not the property owner.

Besides, it isn't the gas station that is creating the atmosphere. Quite clearly it is the bus station. These are the types of issues that a city might have to deal with wherever it places a transit hub. It's time for HPD to grow up, stop crying, and arrest some criminals if they have a problem of too much crime.

It sounds to me like the police department wants to offload their responsibilities on to private security firms.

"They're juking the stats!"-Roland Pryzbylewski, The Wire

Chris Alexander
Chris Alexander

Sorry, that is a dangerous area. I once got off a bus a block from that address and by the time I had crossed the street to go to a business three men were fast approaching me. People have been robbed and assaulted there just walking to their parked cars. As a resident of the near neighborhood I gotta say that while I value the diversity and charm, I don't expect to have to put my life in danger to protect somebody's concept of a funky neighborhood. Turning a blind eye to crack and ho's does not support a liveable neighborhood. 

Blake
Blake

Fannin Street in the afternoon...an easy way to get a tune, or get out of tune? Shit. Lomax?

ribalding
ribalding

To be fair, that doughnut shop serves really good boudin kolaches.

Katy
Katy

What a shame that the good people of Houston have to be exposed to bums and people of Middle Eastern descent!

I used to sing that Tom Waits song every time I went down Fannin (it was on a John Hammond Jr. album years before Waits put it on "Orphans"). I asked my music guru brother why Waits would have chosen this Houston street, and he informed me that Fannin used to have a lot of blues clubs on it way, way back in the day, and that's probably why it earned the Waits reference. 

TK
TK

Shouldn't they start by cleaning up the Greyhound Bus Station?  

GlenW
GlenW

Can't make that shit up!

GlenW
GlenW

Move it down by the police dept.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

So you want then "to get rid of the Greyhound station"? Close it down completely or move it off to slum area? Why should we do that? It's a great convenience to have a bus station downtown. More well-off people would use it if they were as smart as my father in law. He has started taking the bus to and from Austin to visit his kids and grandchildren because he likes paying $11 and not having to either drive or deal with airport expenses and hassles. Hell, it costs more than just to get to Hobby, much less IAH, and then you've got your parking, your fees, your lines, etc. Yes, that $11 fare was a half-price deal, but it would be a bargain at twice the price. He says the buses are a lot nicer now than they have been in years -- comfortable seats, free wifi, more legroom than a plane, and on and on. 

reppin2
reppin2

I remember when there was a taco bell in that building

Wyatt
Wyatt

Hey look, it's an internet tough guy! A rare and glorious sighting!

Katy
Katy

It is a scary area, I suppose, but it would remain a scary area even if the store was closed down.

The Greyhound station across the street is the problem, not the store. 

Guest
Guest

It's about Fannin Street in Shreveport, Leadbelly's hometown.

Craigley
Craigley

We need the "Intermodal Station" near UH downtown along Hakeem's swamp land.  The plan called for Greyhound, Metro, Light Rail and Heavy Rail to all meet here.

It won't be Victoria Station, but it'd be a start.

Ted Stickles
Ted Stickles

Agreed. You can't remove one business from the area and fix all of these problems.

Khalil McMillan
Khalil McMillan

As a veteran, I kinda take umbrage with your position, Katy.  That location is where I sometimes take the Metro #1 Route to the VA.  Greyhound isnt the problem anymore that that Texxaco.  It is just located in the nucleus of where eff'd up shit happens.  Period.  I mean  McGowan?

Katy
Katy

That would make more sense, musically speaking. 

However, the first line of Waits' song is "There's a crooked street in Houston-town."

Katy
Katy

Your opinion of the Greyhound bus station is a position you take "as a veteran"?

What does that even mean?

Wyatt
Wyatt

Isn't that Greyhound station where a lot of recently released inmates get dropped off in Houston with nowhere to go? It may not be Greyhound's fault per se, but it's not just a coincidence that the station is the epicenter of weirdness over there.

Plus those trash cans are designed in a way that begs for you to piss in them in front of a line of cars.

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