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Boerum Hill Fights to Save 'Neighborhood Institution' Jesse's Deli

 Jesse's Deli in Boerum Hill may close after its landlord more than doubled the rent, owners say.
Jesse's Deli
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BOERUM HILL — Boerum Hill is rallying to save a beloved corner deli and “neighborhood institution” that may be forced out because of a steep rent hike.

Jesse’s Deli has been a part of the neighborhood since the early nineties, but the shop might have to vacate its space at Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street after the landlord “more than double[d]” the rent, according to the family that runs the business.

But hundreds of local residents are petitioning to save the deli after hearing it might close at the end of the summer.

“Jesse’s is almost synonymous with Boerum Hill,” said Kyle Boyd who has lived in the neighborhood for the past 11 years.

Jesse’s Deli appears to be like any other corner shop in the city — rows of snacks and canned goods, a sizable collection of sodas and beers and a deli counter that serves coffee, bagels and, by some estimates, the best breakfast sandwich in the area.

“I just feel like it’s such a little essential store,” said Boyd, who visits Jesse’s regularly for basics like eggs and milk and sometimes treats himself to a bacon, egg and pepper jack sandwich.

A batch of roughly 200 signatures is being sent to landlord Karina Bilger, of Bilger Design & Development, this week as residents and local businesses continue to gather more support to save the business, said Jill Harris, a local resident and deputy director at the ACLU, who started the petition.

The petition urges Bilger “to reconsider your position with respect to the lease” and "offer the owners of Jesse’s a lease with terms that make it possible for them to remain in the building."

“There are some changes that hurt more than others. This one would just make Boerum Hill feel less like Boerum Hill,” Harris said. 

Joan Osborne, a local resident and a singer best known for her song “One of Us,” called Jesse’s “a neighborhood institution."

To Boerum Hill, Jesse’s is more than just a convenient corner store. Several locals said the owners and employees are like “family” who many longtime residents have known and loved for years. 

The deli originally opened its doors at 402 Atlantic Ave. in the early nineties, said Nadia Abdel, whose father, Sam, and cousin, Jesse, first opened the shop.

The family has been negotiating with Bilger for a new long-term lease since 2013 but the talks fell through when the two parties could not agree to the terms of the contract.

“It’s been a lot of back and forth for a while,” said Abdel, who also helps run the family business. Abdel did not immediately disclose the current rent.     

Bilger, who did not return requests for comment, previously hiked the rent of a nearby knitting shop that was forced to close because of the increase in 2013. 

Some residents spent hours Tuesday evening in front of Jesse’s urging passersby to sign the petition. Yvonne Chu, who owns clothing boutique Kimera on Atlantic Avenue, is also keeping copies of the petition at her shop.

“There aren’t that many places that are affordable to eat around here,” she said. “I like my buttered bialy. And my iced coffee.”

Susannah Scherzer, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, said the corner deli “is something that goes along with the importance of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.”

“Everything cannot be Whole Foods,” Scherzer said in an email. “This landlord should be ashamed.”

A meeting to discuss Jesse’s Deli is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Building on Bond at 112 Bond St.