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Charlie Sahadi Will Always Love Atlantic Avenue, and His Customers

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 27, 2013 9:01am

COBBLE HILL — Charlie Sahadi always has a minute for everyone.

Whether it was to check on the challah bread delivery schedule or to point someone toward the spice aisle at his Atlantic Avenue store, Sahadi always wants to deal with the constant stream of customers.

Without them, he said, “I’m a pretty store in the middle of the street.”

Sahadi’s’ opened its doors in 1948 and is now one of the longest-standing stores on Atlantic Avenue, said Sahadi, who took over the shop from his father when he was about 20.

At the time, it was a middle-eastern store that sold middle-eastern food to a large population of Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians and other ethnicities from that part of the world. Originally from Lebanon, Sahadi said he rarely saw other nationalities at the store as many were “uncomfortable” because it was “a foreign food store.”

But as of 2013, “everybody wants to taste somebody else’s food,” said Sahadi, who has expanded to offer “specialty food” from all over the world.

“It meant we could sell Indian food, we could sell Irish oatmeal, Lebanese za’atar, Italian and Spanish olive oil, olives from Chile,” he said.

In 2011, Sahadi was named the first ambassador of Atlantic Avenue by The Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation.  He met state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who asked him what was the biggest problem in Downtown Brooklyn?

“My immediate answer, as my customers tell me all the time, is parking,” Sahadi said.

This response led to a slew of meetings with officials and representatives from the Department of Transportation to bring PARK Smart to Atlantic Avenue. Last week, the proposal for the new parking system was unanimously passed by the Community Board 6 Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

But Sahadi knew that not everyone would be happy with the decision.

“‘You’re going to chase customers away,’” was the general comment he received from people who were reluctant to pay the additional parking fees that will extend to Court Street and Smith Street in Cobble Hill. The businessman said he hopes to respond to naysayers with a question: “You got a place to park, didn’t you?”

While the brand continues to grow with a new wholesale division in Sunset Park that opened in 2011, Sahadi’s said their home would always be on Atlantic Avenue. His push for the PARK Smart program wasn’t just for the benefit of his store, but for his customers and the community that he serves.

“It’s never focused on what’s good for Sahadi’s,” he said. “What’s good for the street is good for Sahadi’s.”