Cup Foods, the south Minneapolis convenience store whose 911 call led to the fatal encounter between George Floyd and Minneapolis police, reopened Monday, instantly challenging those who want the corner to remain a memorial to victims of police violence.
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the store at the intersection of 38th and Chicago on Monday afternoon demanding it remain closed. The standoff was tense, with what sounded like gunfire nearby as opponents confronted people who showed up in defense of the store.
Jamar Nelson, a spokesman for the family that owns Cup Foods, said “it was absolutely time to open up” and that the store would stay open regardless of protests.
“We’re not trying to hurt anyone, but if not now, when?” he asked. “How long [will] the store continue to be blamed for the death of George Floyd?”
On the night of May 25, a Cup Foods employee called the police to report that a man had used a counterfeit $20 bill at the store, according to charging documents and the 911 call transcript. Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by officers in front of the store less than 30 minutes later.
The store shut down as 38th and Chicago was barricaded and turned into a makeshift memorial and vigil site for Floyd. Cup Foods tried to reopen three weeks later but closed after a few days.
On Monday, neighbors said the owners attempted reopening a few times since then. Nelson disputed that claim, but admitted that “there should’ve been a longer mourning period before we opened up the first time.”
A security guard stood by the entrance of the store Monday morning, a small neon sign on the window declaring it “OPEN.” Employees stood behind the counters, the shelves fully stocked with drinks and snacks.
Co-owner Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, wearing a T-shirt depicting a colorful memorial in tribute to Floyd on the store’s southern wall, was opening a pack of disposable face masks. He declined to be interviewed.
For many at the intersection, it was as if a wound had been reopened. They described the store, which has been there for more than 30 years, as holding back the South Side and being a magnet to illicit activity on the corner.
After hearing the store was reopening, Carmen Means, executive director of the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CANDO), was at the intersection early Monday morning denouncing the decision.
“They have a laundry list of just being harmful to this community,” Means said. “It’s time that we hold them accountable, and accountability looks like closing that door. Not furthering harm looks like closing that door.”
Nelson said the store reopened because it served a need in the community, offering affordable food and other items. There are other grocery stores in the surrounding area, including the Seward Community Co-op just blocks away on 38th Street.
He added that the store has worked with neighbors since Floyd was killed, including by participating in food drives. Employees will undergo anti-bias training in coming weeks, he said, and the store would commission a mural and community garden.
But neighbors deserve better, Means said.
“We have to use the brilliance of this moment to create a solution,” she said. “Seward Co-op is not the answer, and Cup Foods is not the answer.”
Marcia Howard, a high-school teacher who lives just steps from 38th and Chicago, said Cup Foods caters to people in a pinch and a “desperate” regular clientele. Ultimately, she said, the market would decide whether the store survives at the intersection.
“Whoever shows up, whether to walk through those doors or to stand in front of them, are the ones who determine the fate of this as a commercial venture,” she said.
On Monday afternoon, protesters held their fists in the air chanting “Keep Cup Closed!” as Cup Foods employees and clientele looked out the store window.
Some in the crowd rolled trash bins in front of the store to create a blockade. Several young people then walked over and attempted to move the bins, leading to loud arguments.
What sounded like shots rang out from somewhere close by. A few minutes later, it happened again.
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley spoke with Abumayyaleh outside the store, explaining to him that neighbors have yet to see justice in the killing of Floyd.
“It’s something that really needs to be vetted by community,” she said. “It’s not a decision that can be taken lightly, especially when people are still grieving.”
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Planning Commission met virtually to name Chicago Avenue between 37th and 39th streets as “George Perry Floyd Jr Place.” If the City Council approves the name, the city would add a commemorative plaque on the intersection where he was killed.
“I think this is one step in a future of really trying to make amends for some of the challenges that our community has faced in the past,” City Council Member Andrea Jenkins, who represents part of the community, said at the meeting.
The City Council will take a final vote on the commemorative name change in September.