(This post is a reprint fron the NY Times . I am so saddened, that I felt compelled to post it here. I have childhood memories of rummaging around this grand store when I visited my New York City relatives. I remember trying to take a picture of my cousin beside a stack of jar-filled crates — then realizing several hours later that I hadn’t removed the lens cap from the camera. Balducci’s will be missed.)

Balducci’s Makes a Quiet Exit From Manhattan


Published: April 26, 2009

If social scientists were hunting for recent clues of gastronomical excess, they would need to look no further than the lonely bottles and tins left on the shelves of Balducci’s, the landmark gourmet market that closed its two Manhattan shops on Sunday.

Among the remains at the West 66th location, across from the Juilliard School, at midday Sunday despite discounts of up to 60 percent: Pomodoro Basilico dipping oil. Strawberry Sizzle vinegar. Canned stuffed peppers, regular price $15.99. Goose foie gras, normally $49.99 a tin. Bottles of Tasmanian rainwater “captured from the purest skies on earth” (and a relative bargain at $4.39, before the discount).

“Do you really need chipotle raspberry finishing sauce? What is finishing sauce?” asked Barbara Colasanti, a 45-year-old teacher who lives in the West Village, as she perused the scanty pickings at Balducci’s vaulted, marble-walled and echoingly empty Chelsea store at Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street. “People don’t need all this stuff. It’s a lesson.”

The closing of Balducci’s, the World War II-era gourmet market that was once the foremost pit stop for New York foodies, elicited myriad reactions from its customers, who met news of its last days in the city with surprise, sadness and, in the case of Ms. Colasanti, shrugs. Some viewed the closing as tragic, others as a necessary corrective in these newly pared-back times.

“They priced themselves out of the market, it was hubris,” said Ms. Colasanti, who was a devotee of the flagship Balducci’s at Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, which closed in 2003 and is now the site of a Citarella.

“I’m heartbroken,” said Eugenia Pickoff, who would not give her age, after picking up some “apples and salad and fruit” at the West 66th shop early Sunday. Balducci’s, Ms. Pickoff said, was as treasured a New York institution as Dean & Deluca, another gourmet chain. “Tell Donald Trump to save Balducci’s,” she said.

Leonid Sokolovsky, who lives in Queens, was visiting his daughter in Midtown and stopped by the West 66th shop early Sunday for some pastries. “It was a good convenience, there’s a lot of people in these skyscrapers,” he said, “and all of them want to eat.”

In the end, the markets bore little resemblance to the mom-and-pop fruit and vegetable stand that Louis Balducci, an Italian immigrant, opened in 1946. In 1972, he moved the shop to its culinarily groundbreaking Sixth Avenue site, where he introduced many city dwellers to what were then considered exotic foodstuffs like virgin olive oil and buffalo mozzarella. But some regulars said Balducci’s lost its soul after Sutton Place Gourmet bought the store for $26.5 million in 1999. The company closed the flagship location four years later, and then opened and rebranded other shops under the Balducci name.

In New York, the closings were low on bang, heavy on whimper, with no signs announcing the shuttering at either location. Many customers were caught unawares, even though Balducci’s owners announced three weeks ago that they were closing four “underperforming” stores — the two in Manhattan, one in Washington and a fourth in Ridgefield, Conn. (Six other Balducci stores, including one in Scarsdale, N.Y., will remain open.)

“It’s saddest thing ever!” exclaimed Wendy Pepper, who is 24 and works in the office of a charter school, after stepping into the Balducci’s in Chelsea on Sunday, just before noon, and seeing the darkened display cases and denuded shelves.

Regaining her composure, Ms. Pepper, who was with her two equally dumbstruck roommates, conceded that the closing was perhaps not the saddest thing ever, but nonetheless a shock. “It was in full force a week ago,” she said.

It is unclear what will become of the Balducci spaces, though there are rumors at West 66th Street that another gourmet grocery store will move in. Debbie Shockley, 49, who lives in New Jersey and worked, until Sunday, at Balducci’s deli counter on West 66th Street, said diehard customers had been bursting into tears in recent days, and even yelling at the staff.

“People in this city, of any place, should be adaptable,” said Ms. Shockley. “The customers kept asking, ‘Where are we going for lunch?’ But what I want to know is, where are we going for jobs?”