Today, Court Street is the second most expensive place for commercial real estate in Brooklyn, topped only by Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue. Pricey high-end baby clothing boutiques, such as Jacadi and Sprout San Francisco, seem to keep sprouting up, and stores like Rag & Bone have been replacing neighborhood bar and grills.
Recently, the strip of longtime mom-and-pop shops has seen some of its decades-old vendors shutter in the face of mounting rents, including two beloved bookshops. After 30 years in the neighborhood the notoriously cluttered Community Bookstore at 212 Court St. sold for $5.5 million last May, 10 times what owner John Scioli paid for the building in 1980. Then, just a few months later, fellow literary neighbor and Court Street community staple Book Court announced that they would be closing for good after 35 years of business.
An influx of Italian and Middle Eastern families immigrated to the neighborhoods in the early 1900s, setting up family-run stores and businesses. Even as the streets gentrify and become more commercial some of these businesses have stood the test of corporate greed and still stand, now generations old.
As neighbors worry that a sense of community is disappearing, they need to look to establishments like these five to be reminded that the old communities still exist.
Some of these family owned operation have been open for more than 100 years and, with any luck, aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
222 Court St.
Opened: 1917 by John Staubitz, sold to John McFadden in 1966.
Known For: Their speciality Newport Steak — just $13.99 a pound.
Best Deal: “Staubitz hasn’t ever positioned itself as a place to go for a deal,”owner John McFadden Jr. told us. “Our thing is our undying commitment to bring the best product to market at a reasonable price, at a fair market value. That’s what has a kept us alive and in business since 1917.”
Staubitz Market has been in business for 100 years. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, butcher shop in New York. It is now in its third generation of ownership.
When you enter Staubitz, take note that you have just passed through the orginal screen door from 1917. Let that sawdust-strewn ground fuel your nostalgia of a time past and remind you of the old way butchers used to operate. When you are being rung up, be sure to pay cash so you can watch McFadden open an eighty-year-old cash register to give you change. To boot, you can admire the antique cashier’s booth with its original stained and cut glass. While waiting for your cut of meat, take a moment to look up and enjoy the view of the 100-hundred-year-old ornamented tin ceiling.
The McFadden’s start their morning by meticulously hand selecting cuts of meat.
Staubitz buys from the same beef house as Peter Luger. Luger may get the porterhouse and they may take the sirloin off that, said McFadden. They supply grass fed beef and lamb and a poultry and rotating game selection that is vegetarian-fed. They support small farms that humanely raise the animals with no hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics. They pride themselves on using hand tools from back in the day to guarantee old-school quality.
Planning a little soiree? The market offers over 50 types of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie selected from all over the world. The pantry is filled with oils, pastas, preserves and chocolates.
Staubitz Market is open seven days a week and they offer free delivery.
187 Atlantic Ave. (yeah, it’s technically just across the border in Brooklyn Heights)
Opened: Originally opened in 1898 by Abrahim Sahadi, then run by Charlie and Bob Sahadi with help of Charlie’s wife Audrey. In 2016 it passed onto Christine Whalen and Ron Sahadi. The Sahadis have been serving the community from their Atlantic Avenue location since 1948.
Known for: Sahadi’s is known for their specialty foods including their house roasted nuts as well as their prepared foods counter, featuring hummus and large selection of rotating seasonal menu dishes such as kibbeh (ground lamb with pine nuts and spices).
Best Deal: Hummus at for $3.95 lb made fresh several times a day. To keep their cost down while providing so fresh, so tasty product, Sahadi’s buys the chickpeas and tahini directly from the wholesaler.
Stroll one minute past the Trader Joe’s, half a block away from Court Street and you’ll run right into Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue, the Middle Eastern food market that has been a neighborhood mainstay since 1948. The store is now three generations strong — the Sahadi’s originated in Lebanon — and is a stronghold for the historic Middle Eastern community which vibrantly surrounds them between Court and Clinton Street.
Sahadi’s boasts a vast stock of Middle Eastern products, and walking through their store is a visual treat. There’s the burgundy colors from exotic herbs like sumac, Afghan bread as big as a pillowcase and more than 200 bulk bins made up of made up of several different varieties of nuts, dried fruits, candy, grains, not to mention more than 30 diverse olives in shades of purple, green and black.
For more than 65 years, Sahadi’s has strived to provide the best-quality foods at fair prices with great customer service, owner Christine Whelan said. Recently retired, Charlie Sahadi is often seen strolling the aisles to make sure everything is okay.
Their staff is knowledgeable about their carefully selected inventory and patrons are invited to grab a number and wait your their turn and maybe try a piece of one of their 200 cheeses while doing so. Among their cheese selection, they carry hard to come by Lebanese and Syrian cheeses.
Many of Sahadi’s long time customers have been coming in for generations.
“It is an amazing feeling to see grandchildren of people that were so young themselves when they began shopping here, “ Whelan said. Although she must admit that the newcomers to the neighborhood have themselves brought exciting changes to the area and their store.
“Brooklyn is a great place to be in the food business and downtown is especially wonderful because of the terrific, diverse, food-loving local population,” Whelan said. Sahadi’s was just honored as one of the five establishments chosen for the 2017 America’s Classics award by the James Beard Foundation.
While the business is nearly 70 years old, they support keeping the community green, so bring your sustainable shopping bags into Sahadi’s.
238 Court St.
Known for: Truly old-school dining.
Best Deal: Louis Migliaccio
A statement on the window reads “serving Brooklyn for 80 years. Family owned for 80 years.” Make that 87 years now that it is 2017. While Sam’s isn’t a Michelin star restaurant, some would argue that it’s like going to dinner in 1965 and that may be better than a Michelin star restaurant. If you’re going to Sam’s, make it for the red sauce pizza and the ambiance.
They haven’t changed the decor in decades. Some may find the lighting too bright and the service too slow but hey, that’s the way it’s always been. Take a seat in one of their red leather booths and just observe your surroundings. Put your phone away. There’s a wooden phone booth in Sam’s anyways (it doesn’t work) and classic flowers such as roses add a touch of flare to the plastic coverings on the tables. Photos of times passed, an old Brooklyn that few still remember, line Sam’s wooden walls and hang above the simple bar. Order a stiff cocktail as you wait for your pie.
Taking over from his father, owner Louis Migliaccio is often the waiter, bartender and sometimes cook. He will speak with you, tell jokes and fill you in on what’s going on in the neighborhood. There is much to be learned from Louis.
They also have a full food menu, with a lot of veal options. Cash only.
Cobble Hill Cinemas
265 Court St.
Known For: Celebrity patrons such as Chris Rock, Eli Manning, Ed Koch, Amy Poehler, Marisa Tomei, Keri Russell, Edie Falco and more, according to owner Harvey Elgert.
Best Deal: Bargain Tuesdays and Thursdays: all seats $9, day and night. All seats $9 Mon-Fri up until 5pm. Sat and Sun first show of the day up until 2pm all seats $9. Regular priced tickets are $12 — beats the $15 at Union Square.
Since it’s not a landmarked building it could just be another Starbucks or something, but it’s not. Although Cobble Hill Cinemas has changed names and owners several times, it has remained a movie theater on Court Street since the 1920s. Built in the early 1900s, it started out as a vaudeville theater, before being turned into a single-screen Rio Theater throughout in the 1960s before being down for a few years until Harvey Elgert took it over and opened it back up in 1982.
The lobby is quaint. They have kept an original art-deco theme in columns and lighting but have upgraded all projection and sound to satisfy the 2017 eyes and ears. It’s a small space, with just enough room to buy some popcorn or soda. This limits the space when holding waiting crowds for the next feature to show but Court Pastry (more on them below) is a one minute walk away if you’re feeling claustrophobic. Don’t complain, just head over there for a sfogliatelle and make your way back.
“It is a family business that keeps the operation small and personal,” Elgert said.
The pre-movie slides still ask you to turn off your pagers.
“We keep the feel of old time moviegoing with our nostalgic opening policy trailer and make the customers feel welcome in the way going to the movies was meant to be in a real neighborhood theater,” he said.
You might even recognize the theater as it has been used in many commercials, TV and movie shoots. Spider-Man (2002) was the last big production used for a major motion picture there.
Elgert gave us this bittersweet anecdote about one of their famous patrons:
“The saddest story is our regular customer Heath Ledger who would frequent the theater with [wife] Michelle Williams and their young daughter. He would skateboard to the theater to check the schedule with his daughter on his shoulders. My manager looked at him trying to blend in one day at the candy stand wearing a hoodie and said to him, ‘Are your who I think you are?’ He smiled and thanked her for acknowledging him without a fuss.”
Court Pastry Shop
298 Court St.
Known For: Flavored ices in the summer. Marzipan lambs at Easter time.
Best Deal: Full fresh apple pie $6.
A red and green illuminated Court Pastry sign lights up eight rows of fresh pastries in the front window for passersby to drool at as they walk by. The big sign above simply highlights their Italian specialities, biscuits and cakes for all occasions.
Originally founded by Salvatore Zerilli, it is today run by his sons Gasper and Vincent but they still use their father’s recipes to make the bakery’s southern Italian sweets.
Locals rave about their lobster tail, also know as a sfogliatelle: A flaky and clam-shaped pastry filled with ricotta for $2.50. In the warmer months, their Italian ices are a neighborhood staple. Sizes are generous and cheap: $2 for a small. They start to sell them in April.
Watch out for lines around holidays, unless you want to get that thrill out of not knowing whether there will be any seven-layer cookies left by the time you make it to the front of the line.
Scotto’s Wine Cellar
318 Court St.
Opened: 1909 as D. Scotto Wines on Hicks Street. It closed during prohibition and reopened in 1934 on Court Street.
Known For: Being an unpretentious liquor store.
Best Deal: Delivery to the Fire Island Ferry during the summer months.
After you visit one of the oldest butcher shops in New York you can take a brisk five minute down Court Street to one of the oldest wine shops in New York.
The aisles are stacked with cases of wine on sale, with hand-written descriptions. The shelves from bottom to top are filled with wines from regions all over the world. Fluorescent signs hang above shout the regions names out and point customers to the liquor. To avoid an accident, you may have to turn sideways to let another customer pass but they should make you feel like you have been squeezed into a special place, not just another trendy wine shop.
There are a lot of wine and liquor shops around that get the job done but there aren’t many that have been open since before prohibition like Scotto’s Wine Cellar. Scotto’s first location was on Hicks Street. They reopened in February 1934 at their current Court Street location. The store was owned by the Scotto family until 1989 when current owner James Benedetto took over.
Back in the day, due to licensing restrictions, Scotto’s could only sell wine. Customers would come into the store with Scotto imprinted clay jugs and fill them up with wine from the store’s barrels in the store.
They now sell wines from 17 regions all over the globe, old world and new world (they often bring wines in if you request them) and they have a large selection of liquors, thanks to that change in licensing. They also support many local wineries and distilleries.
Yelper Kimi R. left a review that speaks to the neighborly vibe of the place. When she got married eight years ago, she took her business to Scotto’s buying her wine and champagne.
“They not only gave me the 15% per case discount, but also leant me a few boxes wine glasses – of course at no charge. They simply asked that I bring them back washed.”
For more old-school neighborhood shopping guides, click here.
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