By Elle McLogan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –  E.Rossi & Company is Little Italy‘s oldest gift shop, and it’s full of surprises.

“It’s like stepping into a bowl of minestrone soup; you don’t know what you’re going to find,” owner Ernie Rossi said.

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He’s named after his grandfather Ernesto, who immigrated from Italy in 1900.

“In 1910, he opened up this business, and he sold newspapers and magazines in Italian. And then, as years went by, he added on other items: house, cookware products, coffee pots, pasta makers, spaghetti bowls, and then religious articles,” he said.

Raised around the corner on Mulberry Street, Ernie spent childhood afternoons dusting and organizing the inventory. Now, he runs the place. To him, it’s a meaningful legacy.

“I still probably have in storage merchandise and things from the 1920s and ’30s and ’40s,” he said. “A lot of people come down here, too, to reminisce being in Little Italy. When they were a child, maybe their grandparents or parents brought them into this shop, and when they walk in here, it brings back good memories,” he said.

His favorite part of the job is getting to meet all kinds of people.

“I could sit here and look at that front door, and you never know who’s going to walk in there,” he said.

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At his shop, Ernie finds joy and connection amid tragedy. Earlier this year, he lost his wife Margaret to COVID-19.

“I miss her,” he said. “I just wish I could go back in time, but I can’t. I just can’t.”

In a shop full of souvenirs and relics, her memory lives on. But as both the neighborhood and the world change, E.Rossi & Company is doing all it can to keep its doors open. Ernie seeks help paying rent through a GoFundMe page.

“I hope that we can work out something where I can continue to stay here,” he said. “What else am I going to do with my life? This is all I know.”

E.Rossi & Company
193 Grand St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-9254
https://erossico.com/
GoFundMe

What’s something few people know about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.

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Elle McLogan