Sahadi’s universe is expanding

Sahadi’s universe is expanding
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

Sahadi’s will open its third storefront to Atlantic Avenue next summer — and the popular Middle Eastern market wants your help deciding what new gourmet treats will go there.

Last week, the city approved owner Charlie Sahadi’s plans to expand his emporium between Court and Clinton streets, where he plans to build a full-service cheese counter and soon-to-be-determined temptations.

“We want to make the store more to the liking of the customers,” he said. “We’ll start asking what you aren’t finding in the neighborhood that would make your life more convenient.”

Next summer, a space that’s currently used for storing deliveries and gift baskets will reopen as a new section of the main store.

Sahadi announced the expansion in April, but the work conflicted with neighborhood zoning and required a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals. The plans include building over a back courtyard to create a passage from the new shop to the main store.

Construction is slated for January, but the Sahadi family is already consulting fans of the 63-year-old market.

Christine Whalen, Sahadi’s daughter and the planner behind the store’s upgrade, said she wants to sell goat’s milk and homemade string cheeses — fresh varieties that can’t be prepackaged.

“In the next three months, people should talk to me, Tweet or Facebook me,” she said. “We’re looking for the new section to be customer-driven.”

The push for customer service is nothing new for Sahadi and company. In fact, the man behind the brand was anointed the first-ever “Ambassador of Atlantic Avenue” on Tuesday night for his work in the store and in the neighborhood — despite being a Bay Ridge resident.

“You feel the energy when you go in there,” said Karen Zebulon of the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation, the group behind the inaugural award. “It’s a small-town store in the big city.”

Crain’s New York named Sahadi among the 100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders in 2003 and the Brooklyn Heights Association gave him a Community Service Award.

But Sahadi also proudly recalls his efforts a few years ago to fight illegal permit parking on his street, papering cars with signs indicating what time they parked so that the Transportation Department would ticket them.

“It’s humbling just to realize that somebody notices things you have done,” Sahadi said of his latest accolade.

Sahadi last expanded his market in 1985, opening a second storefront for prepared foods, coffees and an olive bar. His father first opened the store on Atlantic Avenue in 1948 as a reincarnation of the Manhattan market his great uncle, a Lebanese immigrant, launched in 1895.

The family’s epicurean selection of Mediterranean items — including homemade hummus, oils and spices — have withstood the test of time and competition from newcomers such as the Trader Joe’s at Court Street and Atlantic Avenue.

“We’re truly part of this neighborhood,” Sahadi said. “What’s good for the community is good for Sahadi’s.”

Buss stop: Charlie Sahadi gets congratulated by Naima Salem after being honored as the first-ever “Ambassador of Atlantic Avenue,” a tribute to the man behind the eponymous Atlantic Avenue delicatessen.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini