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Shirley deli owner who spared robber closes shop

Mohammad Sohail, 47, illustrates on how he turned

Mohammad Sohail, 47, illustrates on how he turned the tables on a would-be robber at his Shirley deli. (June 2, 2009) Credit: Newsday File / James Carbone

Citing tough economic times and a desire to get more involved in charity work, Mohammad Sohail - the Shirley deli owner who made headlines last year when he took pity on a bungling robber - has closed up shop.

Sohail's William Floyd Parkway store, where he handed $40 and a loaf of bread to a subdued thief in June, was locked and mostly empty Tuesday save for a rack of potato chips.

Sohail, who shuttered the store, Shirley Express Convenience, earlier this month, said he drove around to churches and needy families to give away his remaining food shortly after closing down.

The native of Pakistan, who also owns three residential rental properties around Shirley, said he plans to remain in the area. He said he hopes to open a new store or possibly a gas station in a few months, and also plans to launch a charitable foundation.

He said he also hopes to devote more time to two of his passions - cricket and writing.

"I'm wasting my money, and it is not a good location," Sohail said of his former store, adding that he didn't tell too many of his regular customers of the closing because he didn't "want to break too many hearts."

Sohail declined to release sales figures for the store, but said the soft economy took a toll on his business, where coffee and snacks were among the main attractions. He said he found it difficult to keep his business afloat and did not want to go through the process of applying for state liquor and lottery licenses so he could begin selling alcohol and lottery tickets.

Lottery ticket sales can be lucrative, as the state paid about $401 million to its 16,000 lottery vendors last year, a state lottery spokeswoman said. Figures about alcohol sales were unavailable.

Tough times aside, Shirley Express Convenience remains a fond memory, said Sohail, adding that the store's closing frees up more time to help feed the hungry. "This store made me famous all over the world," he said. "Really, I'm a happy dude, because I can give so much more time to the other things."

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