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Artisanal Mayo Store Getting Priced Out of Prospect Heights, Owner Says

By Rachel Holliday Smith | June 16, 2016 4:36pm | Updated on June 17, 2016 5:00pm
 The Empire Mayonnaise Co. will move out of its Prospect Heights shop, left, this summer said co-owner Elizabeth Valleau, pictured at right with co-founder Sam Mason.
The Empire Mayonnaise Co. will move out of its Prospect Heights shop, left, this summer said co-owner Elizabeth Valleau, pictured at right with co-founder Sam Mason.
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Composite: DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith; Empire Mayonnaise Co.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Brace yourself. Very soon, you’ll have to travel for your artisanal sriracha-flavored mayonnaise.

Empire Mayonnaise Co., the small-batch mayonnaise shop on Vanderbilt Avenue immortalized by a "Saturday Night Live" parody last year, is closing this summer with plans to open in a bigger facility elsewhere, its owner said.

The 300-square-foot Prospect Heights store that serves as a production facility for the mayonnaise company as well as a miniature market for its $8 bottles of specialty spreads will close by the end of July, said Empire co-owner Elizabeth Valleau.

“The Prospect Heights neighborhood has gotten really expensive,” she said, a day after a “for rent” sign appeared on the 564 Vanderbilt Ave. storefront; staff there said the shop’s lease is ending and rent is going up.

Valleau said the spot “served its purpose” for the four years Empire did business there. But now, the mayonnaise company is looking to expand to a larger facility, possibly in nearby Crown Heights or Long Island City, she said.

“It’s been really wonderful. We’ve had a great time there, but we’re all on top of each other now. We can’t possibly make enough mayonnaise in that space, so off we go,” she said.

Locally, the store has been an easy mark for jokes about the small-batch, artisanal food craze sweeping Brooklyn in recent years. Last year, "Saturday Night Live" amplified that reputation in a skit about gentrification featuring “Martha’s Mayo,” with a "must try" garlic truffle mayonnaise and a storefront nearly identical to Empire’s.

At the time, Valleau told DNAinfo New York the shop, which employs native New Yorkers including herself and her brothers, is “no joke."

"Most of my team grew up in lower income families, myself included," she said. "This is not gentrification — no one is getting rich here. This is hard work. This is the dream."

During the shift to a new space, Valleau said Empire will still be available at the many shops that carry it around Brooklyn — including Bklyn Larder, Fleisher’s, Greene Grape, Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods — and online.