By Caroline Benveniste
Far West Village residents should be excited that Brooklyn Fare is coming to the space in the Archive, at the intersection of Christopher and Greenwich, which used to house a D’Agostino’s. When the D’Agostino brothers launched their first store on the Upper East Side in the 1930’s, they had the revolutionary idea of offering a one-stop-shop for dairy, meat, produce, baked goods, and dry goods. In 1987, when D’Agostino’s opened at the Archive, the chain was riding high. Fast forward to 2015, and with a two-star Yelp rating and numerous complaints regarding high prices, sub-par produce and various other ills, D’Agostino’s was no longer a place where people interested in good food at reasonable prices would choose to shop.
In the intervening decades, the landscape of food shopping in New York City had changed dramatically. More gourmet stores opened, with high quality products at high prices, providing a complementary shopping experience to traditional supermarkets. Drug stores opened everywhere and increased their selection of food staples. Eventually Whole Foods, West Side Market, and Trader Joe’s arrived and the Village had better options than the declining and disappearing supermarkets. But for those living in the Far West Village, D’Agostino’s was still the most convenient option—until October, when it closed after the lease was not renewed.
The founder of Brooklyn Fare, Moe Issa, was born in Israel but came to the U.S. when he was quite young. He had always been interested in food and dreamed of owning a food shop. In 2009 he opened his first store in Boerum Hill, and in 2013 he added a Hell’s Kitchen branch. His vision was similar to that of D’Agostino’s all those years ago—to open a store where customers could find everything they needed under one roof. Moe explains that someone might want organic produce, as well as a Coke. Or an Oreo cookie. And so emerged the concept for his store.
The Archive location was appealing to Moe because of the large number of people living in the area, and the lack of any other food shops in close range.
At 12,000 square feet, the store will be similar in size to the other two, with similar offerings. I visited both locations, and had the following impressions:
The stores have a less corporate feel and lower prices than Whole Foods. They have more of the old vibe at Fairway before it started expanding. The meat and fish counter both carry high quality products at reasonable prices. The Brooklyn pedigree is reflected in the packaged coffee selection, which includes Café Grumpy, Stumptown, and Gorilla. The ice-cream selection is mind-boggling. There is also a large cleaning product section, while the dry goods contain a mix of artisanal and prosaic options.
There is an extensive prepared food area with many more vegetarian offerings than most markets. And the vegetable dishes looked brighter and not overcooked as is often the case. The deli is also popular and has long lines. The baked goods, which are made in-house, are delicious and surprisingly inexpensive.
The D’Agostino’s space has been completely gutted and construction is ongoing. If all goes according to plan, Moe predicts that the store will open in March or April.
The Brooklyn store has received a lot of publicity for its restaurant, Chef’s Table, which has three Michelin stars. Unfortunately for Villagers, there is no plan to open a restaurant here; while Moe would love to, there is no space at this location.
Perhaps the store’s main asset is that there is a real person behind it who cares what customers think. If you scan Yelp you see that Moe responds to many comments — whether it is to thank the reviewer for a compliment, or to apologize and offer to further discuss the complaints off-line. He seems genuinely interested in improving, and that is a promising sign for the Village’s food-shopping future.