Alleva Dairy in Manhattan’s Little Italy — said to be the oldest cheese shop in America — is set to close next month after falling behind on rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shop is known for its lengthy menu of Italian delicacies, including fresh mozzarella, ricotta, cured meats, cannolis and sandwiches. Through the generations, this menu has not only captured the love of the community, but also caught the attention of celebrities, including Tony Danza, Leah Remini and Joey Reynolds.
These celebrity visits, along with all the other foot traffic, slowed to a trickle once the pandemic hit the city, causing Alleva and many other businesses to have trouble paying rent.
According to court records, Alleva’s monthly rent payment is $23,756, and the shop accumulated close to $630,000 in debt over the course of the pandemic. In response, the landlord, Jerome G. Stabile III Realty, filed a lawsuit against the business in Manhattan Supreme Court in April 2022.
After a long battle between owner Karen King and the landlord, an agreement was reached. She will be released from financial obligations as long as she vacates the property next month.
King told the New York Post that she tried everything to keep the shop in business, including asking the government for help.
“I’ve written letters extensively to Senators and government officials,” King told the publication.
News of the closing saddened not only those living in New York, but from people all over the country.
Tesy Ward, a New York City local, said that she is devastated that Alleva Dairy is closing and has considered the shop a member of her family for generations. To her, Alleva’s closing is not only a personal loss, but a loss to the city as a whole.
“Independent Mom and Pop specialty shops, such as Alleva, are the very fabric New York City is made from. My weekly visits to Alleva Dairy will forever remain in my heart,” Ward said.
On an Instagram post by Entrepreneur announcing the cheese shop’s closing, one user commented, “My dream of a lifetime was visiting New York to visit this exact shop. … So sorry to see I won’t be able to.”
The dream might not be completely lost, though. While the shop is losing the only location it has ever known since its founding in 1892, King plans to open a new location to continue the Alleva legacy.