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Jarring change at Sahadi’s: Generic bins replace classic glass at beloved specialty shop

Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights has switched to generic plastic containers from the traditional glass in the nut and dried fruit section. Customers are shocked.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

Customers at Sahadi’s, Brooklyn’s primary stop on the Near Eastern spice route, are still fuming that the grocer has replaced the classic glass jars with generic plastic containers in the nuts, dried fruits and candies section.

“Everyone is talking about it,” said Charlie Sahadi, the second-generation owner. “No one likes change less than me,” but “my concern is about my customers, not about my jars.”

The jars were a big part of the shopping experience at Sahadi’s. The store, open since 1948, contained dozens of large, circular glass jars, each containing a different kind of nut, dried fruit or candy. Customers would take a number and wait for an employee to scoop out their order.

The shapely glass jars made a distinctive clinking noise when lid made contact with base, but that repeated clinking led to chipping, with bits of glass ending up in the food.

In other stores, a change like this would be insignificant, but like other recent changes to the Atlantic Avenue grocery, famous for foods of the Levant, anything that tinkers with the old-time atmosphere is sure to draw fire.

“I don’t like them,” said one longtime shopper who didn’t want to give her name. “The new ones look like any deli. I prefer to see broken glass because it has more identity.”

Other New York institutions wrestle with ways to preserve their charm, while not falling too far behind the times.

Russ & Daughters, the nearly century-old Lower East Side smoked-fish haven, has held on to most of the glass jars in its renowned candy section.

“We’ve tried to the best of our ability to maintain the authenticity and the feel of the place,” said Niki Russ Federman, the fourth-generation owner. “We have some glass jars that are the ones my grandparents used. Glass has a better quality and look.” But, she admitted, “Plastic is more practical.”

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