Gyro War: Ahmed Eltawmi's Murder Left Bad Blood Between Two Loop Restaurants

Eltawmi2.jpg
Ahmed Eltawmi, murdered in June 2010
For the seventeen years leading up to his murder, Ahmed Eltawmi ran the Gyro House, a quiet Mediterranean eatery nestled on the side street between Blueberry Hill and Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop.

Everybody loved him. A lifelong bachelor and immigrant from Libya, Eltawmi managed a soccer team, lent an ear to those needing advice, and was by all accounts a goodhearted fellow.

On June 4, 2010, Eltawmi was shot three times and killed near his apartment in Richwood Terrace. The motive seemed to be robbery. Police released an oddly comical sketch of the perp, but to this day, nobody's been charged for the 50-year-old's death. 

Today in the space that used to house Eltawmi's restaurant sits a new eatery: Gyros in the Loop.  Its logo is the image of a man's face -- one that looks remarkably like Ahmed Eltawmi (see logo below). That might lead you to conclude that Eltawmi's family or former employees have carried on without him in that spot.

You would be wrong. They've moved down the street. And as a result, there are now two gyro joints in the Loop without much love for each other.

Once Eltawmi died, a decision had to be made by Dr. Ali Raffa, the deceased's uncle and elder family member in town: What to do with the Gyro House?

Raffa, a soft-spoken 67-year-old retiree, lives in Ladue. He says he helped raise his nephew many years ago, while both were living in Benghazi. After Raffa emigrated to St. Louis and became a vascular surgeon, Eltawmi followed him here.

Raffa says that just days after his nephew's murder, the four or five employees left behind wanted to reopen the Gyro House. So Raffa, who soon became caretaker of Eltawmi's estate, allowed them to do so.

GyrosInTheLoopLogo.JPG
Who does this look like to you?
However, the landlord and owner of the building didn't seem keen on this idea. 

Ray Ghasedi, 65, had been a good friend and admirer of Eltawmi. He even told the Post-Dispatch that Eltawmi was a "saint" and "the nicest man you would ever meet in your life."

But Ghasedi didn't appear to have the same regard for Eltawmi's associates.

(Ghasedi's daughter, who also served as his attorney in this matter, tells Gut Check, "This matter is resolved. We have no comment.")

Ghasedi raised the rent from about $2,200 per month to $3,500 per month, Raffa recalls. Raffa refused to pay it. He and the original Gyro House employees decided it was time to pack up and move down the street, into a new space across from The Pageant.

They made placed small placards for the tables announcing the move. Ghasedi would come in during off hours and remove them, Raffa alleges.

Eltawmi's old entourage finally made the move at the end of August 2010 -- but not before a little drama on move-out day.

On August 29, they were moving their stuff out when Ghasedi's son and son-in-law showed up. A scuffle apparently broke out. Police were called. When officers arrived, a friend of Raffa's helping out with the move reported that he'd been roughed up and threatened by Ghasedi's son. (Raffa's friend decided not to press charges.)

The very next morning, Ray Ghasedi himself phoned police and beckoned them back to the restaurant. He complained, first, that Raffa and crew had wrongfully removed the industrial stove hood and fire equipment.

Then Ghasedi showed the officer a pea-sized hole in the front window. He suggested that it was made with a pellet gun, according to the police report. He also noted he was having problems with Raffa, and feared "Raffa may attempt to further damage the building."

(When asked by Gut Check if he'd shot up the front window, Raffa gives the reporter an are-you-putting-me-on expression. "Somebody my age, running around with a pellet gun?" he chuckles.)

Ghasedi's son-in-law soon opened Gyros on the Loop -- right at the same spot as the late Eltawmi's restaurant. Around the same time, Eltawmi's old employees opened the Gyro House on Delmar Boulevard, right near Pi.

Ghasedi then filed a claim totaling nearly $100,000 against Ahmed Eltawmi's estate. After some acrimonious legal wrangling, Raffa was ordered by the probate court to pay Ghasedi $10,000 to settle all outstanding issues relating to the move.

Thumbnail image for pic101810.jpg
The new Gyro House, across from The Pageant.
The situation still rankles Raffa. The logo used by his rivals, which clearly resembles Eltawmi, seems to especially irk him.

Hytham Masri was the only employee of Eltawmi's who stayed in the old location. He and Ghasedi's son-in-law launched Gyros in the Loop together. Masri says the sign is not Ahmed; rather, it's simply clip-art that happens to look like him.

Still, Raffa feels that the owners of Gyros in the Loop are deceptively claiming ties to his dead nephew. Eltawmi built up goodwill over years of hard work, Raffa believes, but now, they are the ones profiting from it.

Meanwhile, the new Gyro House -- owned by Eltawmi's family -- has a sign above the front door in neon letters that reads, "GYRO HOUSE."

Under that, a third word clarifies: "ORIGINAL." 


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
35 comments
FormerGyroWorker
FormerGyroWorker

As a former employee of Ahmed's at the old spot, this whole buisness makes me sick.  First off, the sign is OBVIOUSLY made to capitalize on Ahmed's likeness. If you didn't know him and never went to the Gyro House while he was still around, then this might not seem clear. But if you did, and expecially if you knew Ray, then you would know this is just the type of horrible behavior Ray is known for. Everyone loved Ahmed, but cant say the same for Ray. Im sure legal concerns play a part in the Ghasedi's decision not to comment, but deep down, I think they have to know what they have done is wrong. For all the bad things I would say about Ray, I won't say he's dumb. He saw an opportunity to make some money, and was pretty unscrupulous about it. Suing Ahmed's uncle Raffa is even worse. Ahmed always spoke kindly  about his uncle. That was his family in America, that and his workers and soccer buddies. Any accusation that his uncle was involved in some insidious plot to take money from Ray, or from Ahmed's estate is ridiculous. Hytham should be ashamed of himself after everything Ahmed did for him, it truely dishonors the man's memory.

This might seem angry, but thats because I am. Ahmed treated his workers more like family than employees. I am still shocked and sad about his murder, and that damn sign at Gyros in the Loop is just like pouring salt on the wound. If this story seems one sided, its is because in this instance, one side is CLEARLY in the wrong. I just hope that for Ray Ghasedi, what goes around comes around.

greekgirl
greekgirl

I'm greek and have about 12 uncles that look like the Gyros in the Loop logo. A generic logo seems like a pretty inefficient way to steal a dead man's business. A better way to do that would be to publicly lament and whine in the hopes of attracting customers. In addition to publishing unbalanced "journalism", Rft has managed to provide a soapbox to a disgruntled business owner who doesn't like that there's competition in the loop. I'm glad that I'm not stupid enough to believe everything I read or hear.

tester22
tester22

Did anyone read they NEVER found his killer. Maybe if the amount of engery and anger was used to find his killer rather focused on what is clearly a business issue, Ahmed would truely be honored. The RFT should focus on that rather than a lawsuit which was settled by a judge through proper process. 

Djdicbob
Djdicbob

If Gyro House cares so much about Ahmed, then why do they rent from the person who kicked him out of zorbas old spot? Maybe they can't stand on there own two feet and need your sympathy to pay off back rent and the cost of tearing up there old place before moving out.

dresden
dresden

I will only be going to the ORIGINAL Gyro's House across from the Pageant. If the other restaurant wanted to go into business, they should be a bit more creative and up front instead of trying to take the wave of someone else's identity.

JustSomeone
JustSomeone

Wow...I think I will stay away from gyro's in the loop. How sad that they are using a dead mans face for their sign.  They should use their own face.

Ladyloop
Ladyloop

I was in the restaurant one day when one of the signs was removed and overheard the discussion/argument...apparently the landlord objected to the signage because the uncle had lied to the court in some way and tried to take all of Ahmed's property, including the restaurant, from Ahmed's siblings and claim it for himself.  The landlord did not want his property used to steal from Ahmed's siblings.  From what I heard, the landlord was trying to protect Ahmed's siblings from this guy who was clearly trying to profit off the death of his nephew by cheating them out of their inheritance.  If this is true then I think the wrong person is being made out to be a villain in this article!

Skjones
Skjones

Wait...I thought someone said the issues were resolved?  So is this just someone trying to take out a competitor and the RFT stirring the part?  What a load of crap!  Shame on you RFT!  The fact that Gyro House played along and the other side didn't speaks volumes to me...

Loop Lizard
Loop Lizard

I'm a semi-regular at Gyros in the Loop. I noticed the "face" first when they used it on their menu. I asked the owner about it. He said others had asked about it as well. He told me he asked a graphic designer for a caricature of an old Greek guy. This is what he was given. In fact, the owner was a little upset with his designer because the logo is a a public domain image, and wouldn't be worth trademarking.

The Gyros in the Loop guys don't seem to be bad people. Inexperienced, but not bad. Clearly, the author of this article didn't talk to them and wrote this story for the purpose of creating a fued that will get the writer, and the RFT, some much needed attention.

Rachel Glass
Rachel Glass

The landlord and owner sound like complete scumbags.  Furthermore, their food is horrible.  I tried it out about 6 months ago.  I ordered a falafel sandwich and within an hour starting having the worst gas of my entire life.  There is no doubt that the original restaurant in it's new location will succeed due to it's wonderful history, committed employees and great food.  This wanna be location will die out due to disgusting food and ownership that doesn't know the meaning of integrity.

Dragon011584
Dragon011584

WTH?  Who knew what that guy even looked like?  It wasn't like he was famous.  How can you profit off of using something when no one really even knew what the guy looked like?  That just makes no sense.  It isn't like he was a celebrity.  If it wasn't for this clearly biased  article I would have had no idea what the guy that got shot looked like.  To me it could resemble most middle age greek dudes i know.  Sounds like someone is pissed they had to pay up and that they have some competition.  Petty nonsense

Dsmith
Dsmith

This can't be the whole story.  Seems awfully one sided.

Trader
Trader

Wow, Ray Ghasedi is a disgusting piece of shit.  I'm sure the rest of his family are awful human beings as well.  I bet they all support Gaddafi as well.

I for one will NEVER return to Gyros on the Loop, and I will tell everyone not to go there either.  Hopefully it will crumble, shitty people make shitty food. 

Eric
Eric

Thanks for the report! I'd been wondering what exactly the story was between the two separate restaurants beyond knowing that the new place at the old location wasn't really the same people. It's a shame that the aftermath of the tragedy resulted in this sort of rivalry. Who knew that it's basically the landlord's family running the old space now?

The logo image for Gyros in the Loop is pretty low. If it isn't supposed to look like Ahmed, who is it supposed to look like in relation to their current restaurant? Someone did actively choose (if not design) that piece of "clip art" that just happens to bear a stunning resemblance to the owner of the only tangentially related former business there; it didn't just will itself onto their signage and marketing.

Alan
Alan

I walk by the Gyro's in the Loop place everyday on my way to school. I remember seeing info about the death, and later saw the opening of the new location of Gyro House down the street. I went there (much nicer), but I asked if there was a connection between the new and the old place. The lady bitterly replied, "They just took over the lease." Clearly there was some bad blood. Eventually I saw a new sign that the old place, Gyro's in the Loop, put up but with the face on the sign was covered -- out of respect I assumed. The face is clearly a caricature of Ahmed Eltawmi. And it stayed covered, that is, up until recently.

It's a little weird that they are showing Eltawmi's face on the sign given that he has nothing to do with it and because there is bad blood between his family and the new owners. However, I'm still going to get my Gyro's from Gyro's in the Loop given that it is on my way home. Location, location, location....

FormaLine
FormaLine

Well I don't think I'll patronize someone who'd stoop so low as to steal a deadman's image from his family to profit....Gyro House for me too!

Broasis
Broasis

Gyro House is much better anyways - but now that I know the whole story, no more gyros in the loop for me. The use of that logo alone is rather a large slap in the face to Raffa & crew, who sound like they've been through an unnecessarily tough time over all of this.

SadAboutThis
SadAboutThis

You have no clue what you are talking about. Ahmed's uncle Raffa is a kind, quiet man. He was a damn vascular surgeon, how many surgeons that you know are hurting for money enough to try to steal from their dead nephew? Ahmed loved his uncle, and Raffa and Ahmed's employees (who he treated like family) only wanted to keep the restaurant that was Ahmed's lifes work open and running in the same way Ahmed did. If you take everything you hear from Ray at face value, you have already been misinformed.

FormaLine
FormaLine

I think if this were the case then the siblings would have taken thier uncle to court. Sounds like the landlord was trying to justify his actions after the fact.

sad but true
sad but true

I know both families pretty well.  Ray's family are salt of the earth people; unfortunately Ray is not.  Think of the phrase landlord and then apply that literally and there you have Ray.  When it comes to his property; if you are on the other side of an argument, you are not just wrong in his eyes; you are now his enemy.  Before Raffa moved out of the building the Air Conditioning went out.  For 3 days Ray would not allow a repairman on the roof of the building to fix the AC.  If you had one living relative living locally here to take over your business and this was how that relative was treated after you had been murdered, how would that make you feel?  Yes the article appears one sided and in this case it is the truth.  

Bob
Bob

Did you actually read the article you're commenting on?

The landlord's daughter/lawyer gave a 'no comment.' Then, one of the Gyros in the Loop founders is quoted, and explains the sign.

Eric
Eric

EVERYONE who went to the old Gyros House knows what he looks like.

Ggiinnaak
Ggiinnaak

I didn't know what the guy looked like until the family posted pictures wanting to know who killed him. Just because YOU didn't know him does not mean he was not well known.

St. Louis' history overflows with people who you don't know. I knew about the story. Everyone who ate there knew. As far as St. Louis, Gyro House is the ONLY place I go for gyros. I've never stepped foot in the Loop place. 

Don't think the lack of money is the only root of evil. The rich who get richer by being shysters? They're making payments for their special place in hell unbeknownst to them.

Jbear
Jbear

Read gyro in the loop article on oct 25 th 2010 in the RFT it might help u see it is not one sided .

FormorGyroWorker
FormorGyroWorker

This is very true, they knew damn well that it looked like Ahmed.

Ladyloop
Ladyloop

Apparently the siblings were in Libya and had no way of knowing what he was even doing.  If that was the case I don't see how they could have.

FormerGyroWorker
FormerGyroWorker

This is exactly the point. Gyro House operated out of that location for more than 10 years, and had more regular customers than any other restaurant ive ever worked at. All the regulars felt like they personally knew Ahmed, since he worked damn near everyday. If you came into the old Gyro House, chances are, Ahmed was there. THAT is why they put his face on the sign, to try and fool regulars into thinking that Ahmed was in some way connected to Gyros in the Loop.As someone who loved Ahmed, that sign is about as offensive as it gets. 

Dsmith
Dsmith

Actually it isn't...clearly one side didn't comment...maybe because not commenting was part of that settlement?  From what I on the street the lack of commenting by the only side that was silent was because they were honoring the settlement agreement terms.  I'm sure there is a whole other side to this story that isn't represented.  The real scumbag is one who comments when he knows that he isn't supposed to and when he knows the other side can't respond if they intend to honor the agreement.  What a low life.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...