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WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Mellon Convenience Store in southeast Washington, D.C., has proved popular among nearby residents ever since it opened in 2008, and their business has not gone unappreciated by owner Ephrame Kassaye.
For the third year in a row, Kassaye held the Mellon Convenience Store Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway and block party this past Sunday. At the event, he met and mingled with his customers hoping that the 375 turkeys he purchased would be enough, according to The Washington Post.
"Without the people who live in this community, I am nothing," he told the newspaper. "I just wanted to tell them thank you. They deserve this."
The 24-hour convenience store has drawn consumers for every c-store staple from soft drinks to cigarettes. However, when shoppers hand over their money or D.C. government debit cards, they do so through bulletproof glass. The turkey giveaway gives Kassaye a chance to step outside that glass.
Volunteers helped out the event, steaming hot dogs and buns, and handing out chips and drinks as a disc jockey played music. One volunteer, Ronald Requilman, came out early help set up. "Southeast does have some good things happening and this is one of them," he said.
Kassaye, originally from Eritrea, has always wanted to own a business. He previously worked as a cab driver and a bellboy in downtown hotels before opening the store. Within two years, he had made back the more than $100,000 he invested to renovate and lease the building, which was a former church, according to the news report.
Kassaye wanted to do more. He's not sure how the idea started, but one day he found himself calling around asking where he could buy hundreds of frozen turkeys. He talked to police at the local precinct about how to get a permit to close off Mellon Street for a block party. In addition, he reached out to the local advisory neighborhood commission representative for community support, and in 2009, the turkey giveaway was born. He said he spent about $6,500 on this year's event.