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Where Kate’s Joint Closed, Another Gourmet Deli

photo(303)Sarah Darville Construction at 58 Avenue B.

A market and deli is coming to the space where vegetarian standby Kate’s Joint closed in April.

Marcelino Castillo, a manager at Gracefully, told The Local that his store at 58 Avenue B will be called Vella Market and will sell organic fruits, vegetables, and juices, as well as a full deli menu with sandwiches. It should open by October.

“It’s going to be all-natural,” Mr. Castillo said, indicating that Vella will be similar to the Gracefully store on Avenue A, between Second and Third Streets, and its sister location adjacent Stuyvesant Town. Read more…

Mood Swings at First and First

Racked opens its citywide survey of bodegas in the East Village, and an employee of First and First Finest Deli shares a funny story about a regular customer with bipolar tendencies. “It’s the weirdest thing,” the unnamed worker says. “Like in the morning she will come in and yell at everyone and then later that afternoon she will come in and be very peaceful and sweet, saying things like ‘Jesus is good.'” Oh, and he says customers are always trying to convince him to order fancy juices that end up sitting on the shelves.

Coming Soon to Avenue A Mini Market Space: A New Mini-Market

IMG_0479Stephen Rex Brown Avenue A Mini Market.

A construction shed has gone up at the boarded-up Avenue A Mini Market. A worker told The Local today that another bodega would open in the space between Ninth and 10th Streets. In September, the 24-hour store posted a sign saying it would soon reopen. One month later, a sign in the window advertised the space to potential tenants. A call to the building’s landlord was not answered.

State to Review Sales of Four Loko

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius The banned drink was on sale last week.

As we told you last week, The Local found five East Village establishments selling the caffeinated version of Four Loko, the alcoholic beverage banned last year after the New York State Liquor Authority and in-state distributors agreed to stop selling the product.

Officials with the authority said today that they plan to look into the continued sale and distribution of the beverage.

“We’ll have to investigate how this product is still on the shelves,” said William Crowley, a spokesman for the authority. “If someone is selling that stuff illegally, it’s something we’re going to look into.”

Mr. Crowley said that investigation could include examining inventory records to determine where businesses are getting the drink. He said that Four Loko is a small part of distributor inventory, and for wholesalers to continue selling the product to retailers and “take a risk like that would be surprising.”

Store owners found selling the drink face fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 and other penalties, including the revocation of their liquor licenses.

Steve Harris, president of the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association, said it is highly unlikely — but not impossible — that retailers are getting the drink from New York distributors who are not a part of the association.

He noted that area businesses could also be “getting it illegally from New Jersey wholesalers or retailers,” or other out-of-state distributors.

“I can tell you unequivocally that none of my members sell the stimulant stuff anymore,” said Mr. Harris, whose group is made up of 44 distributors. “But there is another group of wholesalers that could still have it.”

Banned Version of Four Loko Still Sold

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius An image of a store shelf at the Houston Village Farm on the corner of First Avenue and Fourth Street featuring the banned version of the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko.

Along the left-side wall of a bodega on Avenue B stands a row of glass door refrigerators, stocked with an assortment of alcoholic beverages from bottles of Budweiser to cans of Coors Light.

Three shelves down in the first fridge, there’s also another beer-like brew — Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that created a buzz before it was banned last year in several states, including New York.

The manager of this minimart — who spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job — said he knows it’s “illegal” to sell this version of the drink, an alcohol and caffeine combo that was manufactured by Phusion Projects last year before the company reformulated the product to eliminate caffeine. Yet more than seven months after the December 2010 ban took effect, several East Village establishments continue to sell the old Four Loko, a top selling brand name that brings some small businesses big bucks.

The Local visited 39 East Village establishments along Broadway, Third Avenue, Second Avenue, First Avenue, Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C and Avenue D. Of these, 26 sold the new, non-caffeinated Four Loko.

However, five stores — Le Basket, 683 Broadway; Houston Village Farm, 61 First Avenue; 1st Ave Village Farm & Grocery, 113 First Avenue; Village Magazine, Cigar & Gourmet Food, 102 Second Avenue; and 21 Produce Corp., 21 Avenue B. — were still selling the banned product, as of Thursday.
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A Robbery Victim Cautions Others

IMG_0369Khristopher J. Brooks The intersection where the robbery occurred.

It was her second night in New York City and Rebecca Burns — still jetlagged by the long plane ride from her native Australia — was walking along 11th Street after midnight with a friend, Emma Marquard.

Suddenly a man approached wearing a black bandanna with skeleton designs on it and produced a handgun. “And he says ‘Don’t scream. Give me your bag’ and Bec goes ‘Are you serious?'” Ms. Marquard recalled recently. “You know, we’re from Australia and people there just don’t have guns, so when I saw it, I thought it was fake.”

But within moments, the pair came to a horrible realization: they were being robbed at gunpoint.

The incident underscores a recent uptick in crime in the neighborhood, which has seen robberies in the Ninth Police Precinct increase by about 10 percent when compared to the same time last year.

The police declined to discuss the figures, or the robbery on 11th Street, which occurred July 6. But those who study crime trends note that the typical spikes in crime that occur during the summer months might be exacerbated by the recent run of especially balmy weather.

“Summer months are indeed more dangerous in terms of street crimes as more people hang out till late hours and among the ones who hang out for legitimate reasons are also predators of various sorts and kinds,” said Professor Maria Haberfeld, who studies public law enforcement at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It is a documented fact in criminal justice research that weather does influence crime rate.”
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For Bodegas, An Uncertain Future

Bodegas 7Amanda Plasencia A bodega customer leaves the 21 Produce Corp. Deli & Grocery in the East Village.

Mexican music recently filled the 21 Produce Corp. Deli and Grocery on Avenue B near Second Street in the East Village. But on a recent Thursday afternoon there was no one in the store to buy the corn tortillas, cigarettes and other staples of this corner bodega.

“We’re already losing a lot of businesses due to increases in rent and if it keeps going on like this, we won’t be in business much longer,” Geodoro Hernandez, 55, who works the counter at 21 Produce Corp., said as he gazed around the empty store.

The desolate scene at 21 Produce is a stark example of how small, neighborhood grocery and convenience stores are struggling to stay afloat in a rough economy. Retail groups and other industry experts say that a combination of forces, including high rents and competition from larger, more upscale markets, have placed the future of many bodegas in jeopardy.

In a recent survey of the city’s bodega owners, roughly half said that their businesses are at risk of closing. The cause? Nearly three-quarters cited rising rents.
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