John G. “Jack” Allen had operated laundries and taverns.
Running an adult bookstore on East Sprague Avenue might sound unseemly, but it wasn’t all that different, he told family.
“We always gave him a hard time for doing that kind of business, but he said it was just a way to make a living,” said Allen’s nephew, Jason Kazmark. “He was an entrepreneur, and that’s what it was all about.”
But the work was dangerous. Allen’s Best Buy Adult Entertainment had been burglarized or robbed several times, and Allen had been assaulted “more than once,” Kazmark said.
Sunday night, the 74-year-old man was beaten so badly that he didn’t recover.
John G. “Jack” Allen died at 5:55 p.m. Monday from head injuries, Kazmark said.
No one was arrested, and Spokane police “told us they don’t have many leads,” Kazmark said.
Kazmark said his uncle usually closed shop at 9 p.m. on Sundays.
According to police, a customer walked into the store about 10:30 p.m. and found Allen lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
But that man, who police say isn’t a suspect, didn’t call 911 until 2 a.m., after returning to check on Allen later that night, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, a Spokane Police Department spokeswoman.
“I don’t know why he didn’t call sooner,” DeRuwe said.
Kazmark said his uncle was raised in Spokane, attended North Central High School, served in the U.S. Air Force and gave money to charities.
He also was a champion at curling, the sport in which heavy stones are slid on ice.
“Back in the ‘70s, he was really good at it,” Kazmark said. “He always drug his (championship) jacket around – it was always with him.”
Allen never married or had children, his nephew said. He worked hard and expected others to do the same, as Kazmark learned when he would do yard work on Allen’s various properties.
“He would not let you stop; he would not let you take breaks,” said Kazmark, 32, who never worked at the bookstore.
Allen bought Best Buy in November 1995, when the city was fighting with adult-store owners to curb lewd behavior.
Allen immediately tore out the eight viewing booths that city officials considered a problem. He expanded the video sales and rental portion of the business to make up for the lost business, according to a Spokesman-Review account from 1996.
“Compared to some of the battles we’ve had, it’s been very nice working with Mr. Allen,” according to a city official quoted in the story.
Allen said he hoped to open an espresso shop next.
“I’ve been looking at some real nice black, red and burgundy carpeting,” he told a reporter in 1996.
But crime plagued Best Buy, which Allen moved from West Second Avenue to 123 E. Sprague. In the 2000 alone, newspaper archives show, the store was robbed at gunpoint in March and again in April.
Kazmark said his mother pestered Allen last week to sell the business and retire. She worried about his safety.
“We were afraid this was going to happen sometime,” the nephew said.
Whoever committed Sunday’s robbery stole the cash register and the money it contained, Kazmark said. They also stole Allen’s pickup, which police found about a block from the store.
“Just because it was an adult bookstore, it still doesn’t give a person a right to go in there and have no regard for human life,” Kazmark said. “The brutality that this person did, he stole this life from us.”
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