Crime drives one store owner out of business

A poster of Dr. King hangs inside the Little Star grocery that Thomas Neal opened in 19-69.

"Someday I had plans to leave it to my children but I wouldn't dare leave it to 'em now," said thomas Neal, owner of Little Star Grocery. That's because of the murder of Neal's brother-in-law, store clerk Albert "Sonny" Covington.

Sonny was killed last week during an attempted robbery. Police charged three teens including Markese Alexander Brooks, age 16. The robbers left Little Star empty handed.

"My plan now is to try to sell out or just simply close until someone is interested in the property," Neal said.

It's the kind of place you can buy one pickle from the big jar. Most of Neal's regulars walk to the corner of Vance and Lauderdale from nearby Clayborn Homes public housing. Lifelong neighbors like Aaron Garcia encourage Little Star's owner to hang on.

"Put your arms around 'em and tell 'em you love 'em. Tell 'em please not to close up and stay,stay," said Garcia.

The grocery serves as a natural stop for Vance Avenue Middle schoolers: Thomas Neal winces at the irony of Sonny's murder happening on the King holiday, the very day America celebrates its greatest champion of non-violence.