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Hercules Fancy Grocery Closing After Decades in West Village

By Andrea Swalec | August 12, 2011 8:28am
Hercules Dimitratos said Aug. 11, 2011 that he is
Hercules Dimitratos said Aug. 11, 2011 that he is "depressed" to be losing his shop Hercules Fancy Grocery because of the high cost of rent.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

WEST VILLAGE — Imported beer and a cat named Sneaky are leaving  the corner of Morton Street and Seventh Avenue. 

After 14 years at 27 1/2 Morton St. and more than 30 years in the West Village, Hercules Fancy Grocery will close by the end of the month, its owner said Wednesday. 

Hercules Dimitratos, 70, said the costs of rent and taxes have forced him to close his store, which used to stock 400 kinds of beer, he said.

"I'm very depressed," Dimitratos said. "With these taxes, this rent, people aren't able to stay in business anymore." 

Dimitratos, a Queens resident, ran a similar store at Bleecker and Christopher Street from 1979 to 1995. The rent at his Morton Street shop started at $2,020 per month in 1997. He pays $6,434 a month today, plus about $800 a month in property taxes, he said. 

"This rent is too much. I cannot support it. No one can support it," he said. 

The building's owner, Mark Scharfman of Beach Lane Management, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. 

Tony Raso, who lives in one of the apartments above the shop, said he was sad to see Dimitratos go. 

"I've gone to the shop for years," Raso said. "It's a shame that he's being pushed out."

Reviewers on Yelp offered high praise for the store.

"Oh, you lucky West Villagers! What I would give to have this grocery near my neighborhood!" one reviewer wrote. 

Dimitratos has no plans to open another store elsewhere and said he will close the store once he sells all of its merchandise. He's offering a 10 percent discount on the remaining items on the store's sparse shelves. 

Its closure follows an unusual attempt by a group of artists to help Dimitratos.

The group, which works under the name Store Buyout, walked into Hercules Fancy Grocery on May 20 carrying a briefcase filled with $20,000 in credit card cash advances and bought every item in the store. 

After Kyle MacDonald — whose main claim to fame is having traded a red paperclip for a house in Saskatchewan in 2005 — and friends bought out the store, they showed their work at the Fusion Arts Museum on the Lower East Side and put the items and their 57-foot-long receipt up for sale online.

MacDonald said he's not disappointed that his project could not save Dimitratos' store. 

"He would have closed anyway if we hadn't done it," he said. "It put a good spring in his step." 

The Store Buyout group isn't going to try another buyout, MacDonald said, but they may throw a party for Dimitratos near the end of the month. 

"The ultimate goal would be to raise a lot of money and help Hercules find a new store," MacDonald said. "The best thing people can do is buy him out before then."