FORT GREENE — The popular Ralph's Bodega reopened recently nearly two years after the owner was caught selling marijuana from the shop.
Ralph Jawad said he is ready to put the past behind him and once again serve the neighborhood he has called home for more than 40 years.
In the time since the shop at 89 Lafayette Ave. has been closed, the neighborhood has changed dramatically and he has been busy transforming the space.
"It's like we're in a whole new world," he said referring to an influx of high-end apartments, yoga studios and upscale coffee shops. "Fort Greene is now like Manhattan."
Jawad was known for walking locals home if it got too late, starting tabs for customers who didn't have money and yelling out people's names as they walked past the shop. But now he doesn't know the names of many of his new neighbors.
Since it's been closed, the bodega has undergone changes as well with a more spacious feel and colorful green murals painted on the walls.
There are hardly any dried goods and Jawad is now focusing on prepared foods, meats, cheeses, juice, coffee and pastries.
And Jawad ditched the beer.
"The youngsters around here want to go to the bars now," he said.
Jawad pleaded guilty to marijuana sale and possession of a weapon in July 2013 for selling two bags of pot to an undercover police officer on Oct. 18, 2012 and served seven days in jail.
The bodega reopened for a few months after his arrest but was shut down by the NYPD in March 2013. It has been closed since then.
Neighbors immediately rallied in support of Jawad with petitions, phone calls and a Facebook page named "Free Ralph."
"There was so much community support for Ralph," his lawyer, Eric Rothstein, said.