Downtown Lynn convenience store now offers prepared foods

LYNN ? Lynn shopkeeper Babul Ahmed is passionate about chicken. He can talk with authority about how old a chicken should be when ready for deep frying, or the precise oil temperature to ensure the final product is crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.It was only a matter of time before his food preparation dreams spilled over into the convenience store that he and his wife, Nasrin, opened in 2005 at the corner of Union and Chestnut streets.Melvin’s Convenience Store & Food Shop, 2 Union St., officially opened for business today, offering the specialty fried chicken, French fries, homemade pizza from freshly-tossed dough, hot and cold sandwiches, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, gyros, subs, takeout dinners and an assortment of authentic Indian food.”I wanted a place where people could come in and get good-quality food for not too much money,” said Ahmed, a native of Bangladesh who moved with his family from New York City to Lynn in 1999. “We have the store and now we have the prepared food. I would like some day to have tables so that people can sit down and eat.”Ahmed owned a convenience store on Humphrey Street in Marblehead for three years but the business was destroyed when an abutting building caught fire in 2005. Undaunted, he bought the Union Street building that was once an auto parts store and hired Mike Washington to do most of the cooking. Washington has had plenty of experience in the kitchens of restaurants in Boston, Gloucester and Rockport.”It’s a very strong building and there is parking out front for my customers,” said Ahmed, appreciative that the electric company sited a pole and ran new power lines to accommodate his business. “During the grand opening, the first 100 people who buy will get something for free. If they buy a sub, I will give them free French fries. If the buy pizza, I give them two pieces of chicken.”Ahmed has tuned into kids as customers as well. “Kids don’t usually have a lot of money, so I created specials for them,” he explained. “Just for kids, a piece of chicken, French fries and juice, all for $1. Or they can get two pieces of chicken with French fries and a bigger drink for $2.59.”Adult customers can capitalize on specials like three pieces of chicken with French fries for $3.50; 15 pieces for $13 or 21 pieces for $19.99.”And this is quality chicken, not the kind you get at Popeye’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken. We don’t buy it pre-made from someplace else. We prepare it here, and the chickens are 12-15 weeks old, which is the best age for frying,” he said, standing before the stainless steel chicken fryer, with its timer switches, beeping alarms and blinking lights.Washington lifted the metal rack from the bubbling oil and allowed the dozen or so pieces to cool. After a few minutes, Ahmed plucked a piece and pulled it apart at the joint. “No blood. It is perfectly cooked. The outside is crispy and the inside filled with juice, not like some of the fried chicken you can buy that is all dried out,” he said.The selection of Indian food includes traditional rice and meat, mousala, somousa, roti, paratha and curry dishes. The grill will also turn out standard fare like cheeseburgers and steak bombs.”We are very excited to offer these foods,” said Ahmed, getting a nod from his wife, who adds that ice cream and Italian slush ice are also available.The Ahmeds have three sons – Melvin, 12, a student at Thurgood Marshall Middle School; Danim, 20, a business major at Salem State College; and Tanim, 22, an engineering student who because of finances transferred from Northeastern University to UMASS after the 2005 fire.The convenience store is open daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. The prepared food business is open from 9 a.m. to midnight. For takeout orders, call (781) 595-1788.

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