By Nicole Breskin
TRIBECA — Bazzini, the landmark specialty food store on Greenwich Street, will close down after doing business in lower Manhattan for more than a century.
The store, which sold various nuts, confections and produce, is slated to close and become a Sarabeth’s restaurant early next year, according to the store's management.
“There is definitely some melancholy,” said Bazzini president Rocco Damato, who has owned the brand since 1983. “But the present business model is not a long-term workable model.”
A.L. Bazzini started the company as a wholesale business on Park Place in 1886. It moved to TriBeCa in 1968, and has operated as a store since 1985.
TriBeCa resident Damato, 64, said the harsh economy and the opening of Whole Foods Market in the neighborhood contributed to the forthcoming closure.
Whole Foods set up shop at 270 Greenwich St., a few blocks down from Bazzini, in July 2008. Since then, the iconic store lost 37 percent of its profits, according to Damato.
“If we were 10 years younger, we could adjust to a nut and candy business,” said Damato, who has run the business with his wife, Electra, also 64. “But we don’t want to do retail now.”
Sarabeth’s co-founder, Bill Levine, said he aims to move his eatery into the space in January.
“Hopefully we will sign the lease in the upcoming weeks,” Levine said. “TriBeCa is perfect for us and we would be thrilled to take over the landmark Bazzini building.”
Sarabeth’s currently has seven restaurants across Manhattan, plus a bakery-café in Chelsea and a jam factory in the Bronx.
Bazzini will still retain ownership of the property, but will lease to Sarabeth’s under a deal drawn up by TriBeCa realtor Peter Braus of Sierra Realty Corporation.
“Both sides are very anxious to get the deal done," Braus said. "It’s a long-term lease."
For the majority of local residents, though, Bazzini’s closure was met with disappointment and nostalgia.
“Getting nuts is going to be a problem,” said 83-year-old Imogene Reznica, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than two decades. “I am sad to see everything going here.”
Earlier this month, TriBeCa restaurant Chanterelle, run by husband-and-wife team Karen and David Waltuck, closed after 30 years. Bohemian staple, Yaffa, which sat down the block from Bazzini for more than 20 years, shut its doors in September.
“I heard the news about Bazzini but I’ve tried to repress it,” said Maria Weisbin, 59, who has lived in TriBeCa since 1979. “At least Sarabeth’s will give Bubby’s [on Hudson Street] a good run for its money.”
Bazzini will still operate as a wholesale retailer out of its factory in Hunt’s Point in the Bronx.
Damato is also making moves to expand his manufacturing business. He acquired big-name confectionary brand Barracini in 2005. This month, he added Bartons, another confection company, to his ranks.
With more brands, Damato said he would eye opening specialty chocolate and nut shops next year, possibly in the city and beyond.
“This is not the end of Bazzini,” Damato said. “We are fine going forward.”