PENROSE – Rene Bryant remembers shopping at the former National Supermarket at 4331 Natural Bridge Avenue, at the corner of Natural Bridge and Newstead Avenue in the Penrose neighborhood of the 21st Ward. She also remembers shopping there years later when the site was reopened as an independent supermarket and mini-mall.
The smaller-scaled mixed market and surrounding stores and restaurants brought new life to the area before they, too, closed in recent years.
Now, the structure is being demolished. It’s slated to become a gas station and convenience store.
Bryant isn’t exactly excited about the gas station and convenience store.
“It’s already a bunch of trouble around here; people are going to be hanging out, and I just know something’s gon’ happen,” she said, shaking her head.
Coincidentally, Midwest St. Louis LLC, which owns the development, was sued in 2007 after a man claimed he was stabbed at a company gas station, according to court documents.
Midwest St. Louis was not found to be negligent. However, one of the company’s witnesses was found to have falsely testified, allowing for the calling of a new trial.
Prior to that, according to other court documents, there had been 15 police reports of crime. In addition, employees had been arrested by FBI agents after trying to sell illegal weapons to informers.
Midwest St. Louis agreed to hire off-duty police officers but did not do so, the court document stated.
Bryant had no prior knowledge of that, but what she does know and will never forget is the horrific reason that the former National Supermarket closed in 1987.
That’s when two gunmen shot and killed five people execution-style, seriously wounding two others.
“It was terrible,” Bryant said. “Everybody around here was in shock.”
Bryant said she had been at Beaumont High School with one of the convicted men, Marvin Jennings, but didn’t know him well. Beaumont High is roughly six blocks east of the the former supermarket.
According to Missourinet.com, Jennings, who is serving life without parole in a prison in Potosi, was denied a legal action to gain freedom. In a petition of a writ of habeas corpus, Jennings said he was innocent.
His accomplice, Donnie Blankenship, is also serving a life sentence, in Charleston, Mo.
Washington County Judge Troy Hyde, in denying Jennings’ petition, wrote in part: “Jennings’ allegations in this petition are essentially attacks on evidentiary rulings by the trial court that have already been litigated in the ordinary course of review. He [Jennings] presents nothing new here.”
“They shouldn’t ever let him out of jail – that killing was a shame,” Bryant said.
The five supermarket workers killed that day were Rose Brown, Michael Marr, Kenneth Bass, Michael Bean and David Spahn.
Bryant said she was glad that the structure was going to be something other than a market. She just hopes there isn’t any trouble there.
“We already deal with too much around here.”