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Owner of landmark Flowery Branch grocery store aims to reopen

POSTED: August 15, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

After being gutted by fire last year, Best Buy Quality Foods in Flowery Branch could be preparing to reopen.

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The $2.78 per gallon price at the gas pumps is a sure sign that Best Buy Quality Foods has been closed for a while.

But the Flowery Branch landmark at Atlanta Highway and Phil Niekro Boulevard, once known especially for its meat department, could be getting an interior makeover, nearly one year after a fire gutted the business.

Alpharetta-based architect Richard Debban has submitted plans to the city for the rebuilding effort.

The project will consist of "new coolers, new freezers, just a whole new inside," Debban said.

The registers and aisles will be reconfigured as part of the new design, he added.

The store also will feature "new flooring, ceiling, heating, lighting, air conditioning, plumbing, updated bathrooms," Debban said.

The white brick exterior "will remain the same, for now," Debban said.

The owner, Ahmed Ghulam, who goes by "A.J.," "can’t afford to do much more than that at this point," he said. "He’s trying to get back in business."

Ghulam said he expects remodeling would take six weeks to two months to complete once he gets proper permits from the city.

Ahmed bought the store two years ago from the Atkinson family, which operated the nearly 50-year-old store for 25 years.

Last July, fire caused about $500,000 in damage to the inside of the 4,500-square-foot store, which was valued at $1.4 million.

A store manager, Ansar M. Choudry, was charged with arson. At the time, authorities alleged that he tried to cover up the theft of several thousand dollars from the grocery by setting fire to it.

Choudry, 52, was indicted on arson charges in December and remains free on $20,000 bond pending trial.

His attorney, Atlanta lawyer Alan Begner, said he is still awaiting some lab results from testing of evidence taken at the scene and does not expect the case to go to trial before September.

Choudry maintains his innocence, Begner said.

Staff writer Stephen Gurr contributed to this report.



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