25 May 2013

South Brooklyn's Oldest Green Grocer Closes; To Become Bar

The last couple times I walked by Jim & Andy's on Court Street, the roller shutter had been pulled down on the timeless Cobble Hill green grocer. I thought perhaps the owners were on vacation. (Old Italian vendors in the neighborhood tend to close up shop for a month at a time without notice.) But last Friday, I noticed this notice taped to the front:

Liquor, wine and beer? I stopped into the nearby Cafe Pedlar—which has always rented from the owners of Jim & Andy's, to ask what was up. They told me the owner had decided to close the tiny store and only sell vegetables wholesale from now on. This happened more than a month ago. The space is to become an upscale bar, serving cocktails, wine and beer. No word about who will be running it.

Jim & Andy's was a throwback to South Brooklyn's past. It was an old school green grocer, with one aisle down the middle and boxes of vegetables piled high on either side. You collected your veggies in brown paper bags and brought them to the front, where they were weighed on a hanging scale and given an approximate price. In the past, Frank Sinatra would always be playing on the loudspeakers.

It was a father and son operation, but in January 2009 Vincent Cincotta died at the age of 82. He was also known as Jimmy and was the "Jim" or Jim & Andy's. He son, Carmine, carried on.

Vincent Cincotta began his career as a horse-and-cart peddler, like his father before him, selling vegetables and fruits door to door, street to street, yelling out his wares. He bought his vegetables at the old West Street Market in Manhattan. When he got older, and that style of selling was fading away, he opened the small store in 1970. At Christmas, he brought out bottles of booze and poured out nips for customers as they left.

Jim & Andy's was a part of the neighborhood before Smith Street and Court Street became awash with shops selling artisanal foodstuffs. In the early '90s, Jim & Andy's carried delicacies like Morel mushrooms when no one else in the area did. I bought them there annually for a while; they only had them for a brief window of time.

The last time I was there before it closed, I had a longer than usual chat with Carmine, who, with his full head of dark hair and beard, always reminded me a bit of James Brolin. I have no idea how it happened, but somehow the conversation veered to The Beastie Boys. I mentioned being saddened by the news last year that member Adam "MCA" Yauch had died. Carmine said, as if it were nothing, "He used to come in here all the time in the '80s. Nice kid."


onemorefoldedsunset said...

That's sad news. Used to love going in there.

Mitch said...

Did Carmine own the building, or was there a rent increase involved?

Anonymous said...

Is this the last of the old school Brooklyn (or NYC) green grocers?

Reminds me of the old Marine Market in Bay Ridge, which closed up and got split between a Starbucks and an Italian market. The owner is Sicilian and the market was started by his mother, who was coming to the store well into her 90s.

The owner's son went into another business, and the owner himself was savvy with real estate and decided to split the old store between Starbucks and a mom-and-pop. SB was a smart investment and it made it a good location to this day.

Still, that tradition is gone...guys in white aprons who would handle your produce and put it in white paper bags, wrapping individual pears, say. Long-standing customers, homemade dishes.

That level of service and familiarity is being jettisoned in favor of uniform convenience and the lowest price. Only time will tell where that leaves the fabric of the boroughs.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Carmine owned the building; he rented the next door space to Cafe Pedlar. So this is his decision, and I assume he'll get the rent from whatever bar occupies the space.