NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Since 1948, Sahadi’s Importing Company has sat on the border between the Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods.
Opened by Lebanese immigrants, the shop began as a Middle Eastern grocery. Later, the wares expanded to include specialty items, prepared foods, and a broad range of international imports.
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Charlie Sahadi ran the shop for 52 years with the help of his wife and siblings, before passing it down to his daughter Christine and son Ron.
“People come in here asking, at least five times every day, ‘How’s your father doing?'” Ron said.
Some customers time their visits specifically to see Charlie, who visits once a week.
“I am the Sahadi’s schmoozer. I count how many hugs and kisses I can get in a day,” Charlie said. “One Saturday I came in, I got 40. I called my wife upstairs in the office. She said, ‘You counted them?’ I said, ‘I counted every one of them.'”
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“You walk in here, and you can smell the nuts. You can smell the hummus. You know that we’re making lentils because the onions are frying,” Christine said. “I think it’s all part of what makes us Sahadi’s.”
“People that grew up overseas, they come here. We have a sense of familiarity,” Ron said. “We have products that they grew up on.”
Much of the action takes place in the bulk department, where nuts, candies, and dried fruits are scooped from glass jars and sold by the pound.
In the the bakery and deli sections, a variety of to-go items are made fresh.
“Some are really traditional, and some are a little bit more modern, but using very traditional techniques or flavors,” Christine said.
“We have customers that have been coming here for years and years. Their kids have been coming here,” Ron said.
“Some days, there’s four generations here at one time,” Charlie said.
For many customers, human connection defines the Sahadi’s experience.
“Our staff speaks many languages, so they can connect with a lot of people. They also know what to do with everything, so you can actually come here and not have to google it. You can walk in, and you can have a person tell you what to do with the rest of a jar,” Christine said.
“People feel very at home here, so they think nothing of looking at somebody else’s basket and saying, ‘So what do you do with that?'”
“We grew up here,” she said. “We’re always talking with the customers about the different things happening in the neighborhood, and it feels nice to have a location where there’s real people talking about things that are important to you and them.”
“We’re trying to integrate some of the younger crowd with the older crowd to make the business even more interesting,” Charlie said. “[That will] give us many more interesting conversations. A lot of good things happen when that happens, and I think the same thing’s going to happen here.”
187 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
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