Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rocket Fizz to Reopen in the Loop After Clerk Maced Teens

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 2:21 PM

click to enlarge Rocket Fizz's sole St. Louis location is on the Delmar Loop. - PHOTO VIA GOOGLE
  • Photo via Google
  • Rocket Fizz's sole St. Louis location is on the Delmar Loop.

The Rocket Fizz (6372 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-833-4614) franchise in the Delmar Loop closed last week in the wake of a confrontation between a clerk and a handful of teens — but the shop's franchisee tells Riverfront Times that as of today the business is back, well, in business.

"It is time for us to reopen," says Martin Baker.

Baker, who is also the store's managing partner, then declined comment on particulars of the incident, which involved a clerk allegedly pepper-spraying the group of teens and brandishing a knife.

On Tuesday evening last week, a University City mom's Facebook post claiming that her daughter and five friends "thought they were going to die" sparked outrage and calls for boycott. The mom, who acknowledged that she did not personally witness the incident, wrote that the kids had been followed around the store by a Rocket Fizz employee, and that the employee "went crazy and pulled out a knife."

The Facebook post described how the group of kids, aged between eleven and fourteen, later returned to the story to purchase candy. A man showed up — presumably another employee — and she wrote that he began "bodyslamming, choke holding, and trying to drag the little girls to the back room." According to her kids, the man also pulled a gun and threatened to shoot them. And after that, she wrote, the first employee "sprayed pepper spray directly into the children's eyes and mouths."

The original Facebook post has since been deleted or made private, but screenshots of the post have been shared more than 100 times. Apparently, the outcry was sufficient for Rocket Fizz's CEO, Rich Shane, to close the shop over the weekend.

"As a nationwide franchisor, Rocket Fizz’s goal is to provide a clean and family-friendly environment for customers, and we have a long history of giving back to communities where we operate," read a statement signed by Shane and posted to the local store's Facebook page Thursday. "We are aware of an incident at a franchisee-owned store in University City, Missouri. Conflicting versions of events have surfaced on social media.

"We and the franchisee have agreed to close that store while police investigate to determine what actually occurred."

The University City Police Department has opened an investigation, although it appears that its early findings clash with the Facebook post's narrative. According to Fox 2 (KTVI), a store clerk told investigators that after she confronted the six juveniles for stealing, they became "extremely aggressive, verbally assaulting her and approaching her while she was behind the counter."

However, the clerk did seem to confirm some parts of the story. She allegedly acknowledged to investigators that she had displayed a knife — "out of fear" — and said that when the group returned, she "used pepper spray on the teens, and called the police."

Fox 2 reports that the teens were not arrested, though they were taken to the police department to treat the pepper spray exposure. The police department is apparently obtaining surveillance video.

University City Police Chief Larry Hampton did not return our call for comment earlier today.

Baker, the store's manager, says that while he handles the day-to-operation of the store, he was not present during the confrontation.

"It was a regrettable situation," he says.

Adding fuel to some commenters' fire, Baker is also an Internet Famous Meme. He gained notoriety in 2014 for reportedly being the only black person to show up to a pro-Darren Wilson rally.

Editor's note: This story was updated not long after publication to include an additional detail from the KTVI report, namely that the clerk has accused the kids of stealing.


Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com



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