Farewell, Brooklyn’s best punchline: The artisanal mayo store got priced out (but maybe not for good)

Farewell, Brooklyn's best punchline: The artisanal mayo store got priced out (but maybe not for good)
Empire Mayo’s Vanderbilt Avenue home now has a for-rent sign outside. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn.

Nothing has ever landed on our doorstep in quite such a neatly wrapped bundle of punchlines as the Brooklyn artisanal mayonnaise store, which opened in Prospect Heights in 2012. It became shorthand for just how far Brooklyn’s food preciousness had gone, rescuing even lowly mayonnaise from the depths of low-class condiment prison into Empire Mayo’s small shop on already excessively cute Vanderbilt Avenue. SNL joked about it, Good ran a story titled “Why mayonnaise matters in the gentrification debate,” the Wall Street Journal wrote simply “Yes, artisanal mayo.”

You might need a new small business strawman to pick on soon: Empire Mayo is closing its store at the end of July, though the brand will probably live on online or in another store TBD.

A source told us landlord of the tiny 300-foot store, where the little jars of fancy mayo are produced, wants to raise the rent when the lease is up next month, so the owners chose not to resign. A for-rent sign is now up outside the building. Much of their business comes from wholesale (to stores like Brooklyn Larder and other fancy grocers) and online, so it’s likely you can still get your white truffle or ghost pepper mayo in the future. We reached out to co-founder Elizabeth Valleau for comment and we’ll update this story when we hear back.

UPDATE: DNAinfo confirms the shop is closing but with plans to a bigger production facility later this summer, possibly in Crown Heights or Long Island City.

“The Prospect Heights neighborhood has gotten really expensive,” Valleau told DNAinfo.

The shop is owned by Sam Mason, who also makes ice cream for OddFellows in Williamsburg, and Valleau, who works in advertising and also is in the band WOLVVES. They’ve always been aware of the jokes, and don’t see themselves as responsible for slathering gentrification all over the nabe like so much small-batch mayo.

“Most of my team grew up in lower income families, myself included,” Valleau told DNAinfo last year. “This is not gentrification — no one is getting rich here. This is hard work. This is the dream.”

The store certainly isn’t alone in its struggles: It’s just the latest of the trend of small Brooklyn artisanal businesses having trouble surviving, as we wrote about here.

We’ve of course made our fair share of artisanal mayo jokes over the years, but never that seriously. There’s bigger problems in the city than a 300-square-foot store selling rosemary flavored sandwich condiments. At least it provided a break from hack jokes about mustaches and bikes for a few years.

Follow Tim, who would still throw down on some artisanal vegan mayo, @timdonnelly.

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