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A Doomed Deli's Grassroots Publicity Stunt: Going 'Artisanal'

By  Emilie Ruscoe and Nikhita Venugopal | June 12, 2015 5:53pm | Updated on June 15, 2015 8:44am

 Jesse's Deli is staging a campaign to protest its imminent rent increase. 
Jesse's Deli 'Artisanal' Posters
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BOERUM HILL— A beloved deli that's set to shutter after serving Boerum Hill for decades is turning "artisanal" for the weekend in an event that's part social commentary and part publicity stunt.

Between Friday, June 12 and Sunday, June 14, Jesse's Deli, located at 402 Atlantic Ave., is advertising items priced two and a half times higher than usual  — a number reflective of the unsustainable hike their landlord demanded of them after contract negotiations broke down between the two parties.

Boerum Hill residents fought to save the deli, which some called a "neighborhood institution." The lease expires on July 31.

The price hikes are advertised alongside images of conventional deli products with "gentrified" descriptions, such as "Bushwick Baked Vegan Cat Food" and "Artisanal Roach Bombs"

The campaign is "just to raise awareness of what we have to charge if we were to renew the lease at that rate," said Mohamad Itayim, a member of the longtime family business. However, Jesse's Deli will not actually be accepting more money for the products.

Neighborhood residents Tommy Noonan and Douglas Cameron are largely responsible for orchestrating the event. Cameron, who runs a "creative laboratory" called DCX, will be on hand along with Noonan over the weekend to film customer reactions to the inflated rates.

The duo took a list of everything in the shop and then made a list of buzzwords for "gentrified products," Noonan told DNAinfo New York.

"Then we kind of married those together with packs of Budweiser," he said. 

The deli's landlord Karina Bilger said in a statement last week that she's not to blame for the shop's planned closure and "[i]n the selection of a new tenant, I will be sensitive to the needs of our wonderful community."