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Northbound on a drive up Central Street in Springfield, a motorist comes to the traffic light at the intersection of Central and Pine Street. There, the driver stops his car – doesn’t pull over, mind you – turns off his engine, gets out and crosses the street. He enters into a small liquor store tucked into the corner of Pine and Central. While he’s inside shopping, other cars on northbound Central Street are forced to drive around his car, which is parked directly in front of the traffic light.
This is hardly a rare occurrence. Central Street at this juncture is very narrow, with little room for curbside stops on the southbound side and no room at all for pullover stops on the northbound side. Yet the liquor store doing business here – which these days, according to its sign, also doubles as a convenience store – is quite popular with neighborhood residents. And few of them, it appears, have any compunction whatsoever about blocking traffic by stopping their cars at the intersection to pick up their measure of needs. It’s notable, too, that this occurs despite the fact that there is parking available in a lot just behind the store.
The small store also serves as a hangout for some of the folks who live nearby, as both adults and children cross through its doors, day and night. They’ll stand at the corner, chatting with each other or “waiting for friends” just outside the door. Signs on the windows advertise Corona beer and other alcohol for sale. Another large sign on the door lets patrons know the store gladly accepts EBT.
The Summit Package Store – or whatever alteration of its name it chooses to go by these days (and the “PACKAGE” part of its name remains prominently displayed) – has been closed and re-opened a number of times since 2005. To say the Summit has led a charmed life, though, would be a disservice to the man who died there during a robbery several years ago. It’s more like the place is an infected wound on the community that refuses to heal – where as recently as last March a man was robbed at gunpoint right outside the front door.
Back in September of 2005, Summit Package Store co-owner Kanchan Patel was fatally shot there during a robbery gone bad. His killers were later sentenced to prison, and Patel’s brother and business partner, Henry Patel, later reportedly sold the store.
State records indicate the store’s ownership then went to a David A. Cimini, of Southbridge, MA. (Either that, or he already owned a share of the store and Patel simply sold off his share – the record is murky on this timeline. In fact, Patel appears to have still owned the liquor license until a transfer occurs later in 2007 – see below.) Subsequently, Cimini appears to have sold the store again to Dang’s Enterprise, Inc., owned by Derek Dang of 30 Eldridge Street, Springfield.
It was apparently during this transfer of ownership that the first of two court-ordered “involuntary dissolutions” occurred, in May of 2007. (Again, information seems to overlap on ownership, with Dang’s registration showing a business starting at the address in October of 2006, while Cimini’s ownership registration shows the first involuntary dissolution in 2007. Springfield city records show that Dang petitioned – apparently successfully – for a liquor license transfer in February of 2007 from Krunal Enterprises, Inc., which state records show is owned by Henry Patel.) It’s not clear what happened after this first involuntary dissolution, but the store remained open soon thereafter, with Dang then showing up in records as the owner.
Sometime afterward, the store caught the attention of the non-profit Stop Access Springfield, which monitors underage liquor sales in Springfield. Their efforts were largely futile, though, in the face of a disinterested city government that seemed more eager to keep the business open than shuttering it for any alleged illegal activity. Even so, the store was eventually closed in the summer of 2011 – much to the delight Stop Access. But the closure turned out to be frustratingly short-lived, as the store was quickly re-opened under new management, this according to a large sign posted on its wall facing Central Street at the time.
Finally, this past June of 2012, the business appears to have been subject to a second court-ordered involuntary dissolution. But that does not appear to have stopped the Summit from continuing to serve up its fine liquors, beer, and other convenient goods. And to this very day, both adults and children stroll in and out of its doors at all hours of the day and night.
Such is the life of a small liquor/convenience store doing business in a poor community in Springfield.
Nothing stops that little train from chugging up that hill.