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A heated encounter with a customer several days earlier may have sparked a Friday morning fire at an east-side party store.

Deputy commissioner Dave Fornell of the Detroit Fire Department said the blaze that closed Chalmers Plus Liquor Store was a definite case of arson.

WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) reported that two employees were on duty at 1:30 a.m. when an object thrown into the store started the fire. Fornell said firefighters needed an hour to douse the flames.

Small protests had taken place at the store at 11306 Chalmers in previous days after a woman complained of being struck with a beer bottle by employees. Pauletta Jones, displaying several stitches in her forehead, told WXYZ that “just basically I came in to buy something and I was assaulted by the worker.”

Store workers disputed her account, telling the station that Jones was drunk, tried to steal the beer, and bit an employee who attempted to stop her. They said she was cut by shards after throwing the bottle against a wall.

Owner Rose Yaldo told WXYZ that a caller Thursday afternoon threatened to torch the store.

“‘You Arab people this, we’re gonna do that,’” she said, paraphrasing the call. “Why? I been here since 2009. I been in the United States 43 years. Never had any problems.”

Detroit police said they will be reviewing surveillance video of the incident inside Chalmers Plus. Fornell said fire investigators will be downloading video in a search for evidence regarding the arson.

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