CHICAGO (STMW) — A Far South Side grocery owner and his nephew tackled a man who doused them with gasoline while threatening to set the store on fire during an attempted robbery Thursday in the Morgan Park neighborhood.

Thomas K. Hughes, 53, of 11311 S. May St., is charged with three counts of attempted aggravated arson and one count of attempted armed robbery, police said.

On Friday, Hughes was ordered held on $750,000 bond and a preliminary hearing was set for April 15 in Indictment Court (Br. 98), Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Andy Conklin said.

Hughes was allegedly carrying a red plastic gas container and wearing a ski mask when he entered Morgan Park Foods at 1101 W. 111th St. about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, police said.

The store’s owner, 39-year-old Haytham Elzeibaq; his 21-year-old nephew Jay Elzeibaq, and a 46-year-old security man were working at the time.

“He just started throwing gas all over my nephew and I,’’ said Haytham Elzeibaq. “He said, ‘Give me the money, give me the cash’ and he took the register. He had a lighter and he was going to strike it.’’’

Hughes allegedly said: “Open the cash register or I’ll burn you and the store,’’ the police report said.

But the victims took action instead.

“We jumped on him,’’ Haytham Elzeibaq said.

They wrestled and exchanged punches with Hughes and were able to hold him down until police arrived. Onlookers — including a woman and several passengers aboard a CTA bus — saw the fight and called police, he said.

“If he had lit the lighter, the whole place would have gone up,’’ according to Haytham Elzeibaq, who said he and his nephew suffered only scratches.

Oddly enough, when they pulled off Hughes’ mask, they realized they knew him as a customer who comes into the store every day or so to buy juice and chips.

“We never had a problem with him. He’s really quiet,’’ said Haytham Elzeibaq, who has owned the store for five years and said nothing similar has ever happened.

He credits his streets smarts — including not appearing to be scared — with allowing him to thwart the robber.

“If you are scared, people will take advantage of you,’’ he said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)