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Lake Avenue stabbing: A tribute to Tony 

Lakeisha Commings, a customer of the Lake Avenue Mini Market, lights a candle at a memorial remembering clerk Anthony (Tony) Lovett, who was stabbed to death in the store Nov. 29, 2021.

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Lakeisha Commings, a customer of the Lake Avenue Mini Market, lights a candle at a memorial remembering clerk Anthony (Tony) Lovett, who was stabbed to death in the store Nov. 29, 2021.

There has been a lot less music on Lake Avenue this week.

The man who played it was stabbed to death a few feet from where he used to sway to the sounds blaring from his speaker.

His name was Anthony Lovett, but he went by Tony, and he worked the morning shift at Lake Avenue Mini Market, a convenience store near Emerson Street that shares a parking lot with a Speedway and a self-storage center. He was 59 years old.

On most mornings, Tony could be found sitting on a woofer the size of a suitcase that he used to prop open the store door. He moved to the music and smoked cigarettes while waiting for customers. Some mornings he smoked something stronger.

He played soul, R&B, rap, and whatever suited his mood that day.

“This,” he said of his music just before Thanksgiving, “this right here is what it’s all about.”

Tony was killed Monday in the store around 9:30 a.m., a few hours into his shift. A 29-year-old woman, Jamie Lynn Prescott, has been charged with his murder. She was arraigned Tuesday and pleaded not guilty.
click to enlarge A makeshift memorial sprung up at the Lake Avenue Mini Market a day after its clerk, Anthony (Tony) Lovett, was stabbed and killed inside on Nov. 29, 2021. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • A makeshift memorial sprung up at the Lake Avenue Mini Market a day after its clerk, Anthony (Tony) Lovett, was stabbed and killed inside on Nov. 29, 2021.
His slaying marked the city’s 78th homicide this year. The prosecutor on the case, Eleanor Biggers,  called his death "a senseless, completely pointless act."

I knew Tony. Not well, but well enough to be on a first name basis and to describe the person he was behind the counter and the kind of person he aspired to be.

Tony had been a clerk for a couple years. He wasn’t crazy about his job, but he took pride in it. He kept the shelves stocked and swept up outside. If he happened to be eating breakfast, he tossed crumbs to the sparrows that perched on the nearby Dumpster.

“He was a good guy,” said Ralph Colon, who figured he bought a Bud Light from Tony about a half hour before he was killed. “He was always friendly, if I didn’t have it, he’d give me credit, you know?”

Other customers felt the same about Tony. A day after he died, a makeshift memorial of candles and balloons and flowers sprung up outside the door where Tony used to sit on the speaker.

“I’ve been coming to the store for some years,” said Lakeisha Commings, who lit a candle at the vigil and said a prayer. “He was full of laughs and smiles. He was very kind to me.”

I saw Tony most mornings, when I stopped in for a pineapple drink he sold. When the fridge broke down one day, he scoured the backroom for a cold one for me. Some mornings, when it already felt like it had been a long day but was way too early for a soda, I bought a Coke. Tony never judged.

“Whatever gets you through,” he used to say.

The only two things Tony judged were the New York Yankees and what he called “the kids on the streets” who he said had nothing better to do than shoot off their mouths and their guns.
He used to complain that those youngsters were lost and say that they should join the military, like he did as a young man, to find a sense of purpose. Tony had been a cook in the Navy.

We sometimes watched the Yankees together on a TV propped up on a shelf in the store above racks of T-shirts and jeans. In the summertime, Tony had the channel tuned to the YES Network so he could catch a replay of the game he slept through the night before.

“Don’t tell me what happened,” he would warn me when I walked in.

Tony loved sports. He often wore athletic paraphernalia. On warm days, he used a patch of artificial turf outside the store as a putting green.  It had the topography of the Sierra Nevada, but Tony had a knack for reading it.

He especially loved baseball, though. Something about the timelessness of it appealed to his nature.

“Some people think it’s boring,” he once said of the game. “I can’t be responsible for their ignorance.”
click to enlarge Anthony (Tony) Lovett used a patch of artificial turf outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market to practice his putting. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Anthony (Tony) Lovett used a patch of artificial turf outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market to practice his putting.
Tony was a house painter by trade and still did odd jobs. He told me he taught his son how to paint and that his son had a successful business in New York City.

Andre Hicks, who stopped by the storefront memorial to pay his respects, recalled that Tony once saved his life on a painting job when the ladder on which he was standing began to topple and Tony grabbed it. He said they both almost fell off the three-story roof.

“He had everybody’s back,” Hicks said. “If you were short in the store, he would let you slide for whatever you needed, you know? He helped out people in the community.”
click to enlarge Andre Hicks pays tribute to his friend Anthony (Tony) Lovett outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market. Hicks and Lovett painted houses together. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Andre Hicks pays tribute to his friend Anthony (Tony) Lovett outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market. Hicks and Lovett painted houses together.
For months, Tony had been talking about an apprenticeship program he wanted to start and said he was working with officials from City Hall to put it together. A few days before he died, he brought it up again and told me I should write about it.

“We got to get the kids off the streets,” he said. “Give 'em something productive to do.”

I told him I would if he ever got the program off the ground.
click to enlarge Anthony (Tony) Lovett, left, on his putting green outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market, where he worked as a clerk. In the background, a customer hits the links. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Anthony (Tony) Lovett, left, on his putting green outside the Lake Avenue Mini Market, where he worked as a clerk. In the background, a customer hits the links.
There must have been an awful struggle in that store in the minutes before Tony died because the next day, after the yellow police tape had been taken down and tossed in the Dumpster where the sparrows perch, the place looked like it had been ransacked.

The door that Tony used to prop open with his speaker was locked, but a mess of T-shirts and jeans and canned goods and candy bars could be seen strewn about the place through the windows and the metal grates that protected them.

On Thursday morning, another clerk walked out of the store with a trash bag slung over his shoulder and said the Lake Avenue Mini Market would open again soon.

The mess inside was gone. So was the music.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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