Jefferson Market stocks down but Met Food hopes up

By Albert Amateau

Jefferson Market, the food market that has been serving the Village under the same ownership for more than 40 years, has seen better days.

For the past few weeks, gaps have appeared in the usually well-stocked shelves. The prepared-food counter and the seafood display had more ice than offerings. The cheese cooler has been half-full at times.

And Villagers who do their weekly shopping at Jefferson Market, 450 Sixth Ave., across the avenue from the Jefferson Market Library, have been trading rumors of the store’s closing. One shopper said he had heard that employees had been given notice of the possible closing and five weeks’ advance pay.

But last week, an open letter and a notice were posted in the store’s windows: “To our family of customers. Thanks for your continued loyalty and support during this rough patch we’re going through. Because of our commitment to you, we’re determined to come out of it better than ever,” the notice said.

“The rumor that we’re closing is not true,” Louis Montuori, whose late father, John, acquired the store in 1962, said on Monday. “We’re doing everything we can to keep open,” he said, but declined to comment further.

A store employee who did not give his name said earlier this week that business had begun to improve already but the number of employees had declined to about 30 from the 75 on the staff last year.

Angelo Montuori, 70, the brother of the late founder and uncle of Louis, told The Villager that the store would begin restocking in about three weeks.

“A lot of our customers go away for the summer,” he said. “I’ve been here 35 years and this was the worst summer yet,” he added.

Meanwhile, the future seems brighter for East Village residents who shop at Met Food, located in the New York University building at 107 Second Ave. The store’s owners have been trying to get a new lease since the beginning of the year and success is in sight, said Mike Schumacher, who owns the store with his brother, Steve.

State Senator Tom Duane and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez have been encouraging the university and the Met Food store’s owners to reach an agreement that would ensure the store remains a viable business and a community amenity.

“We can’t say anything till all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, but I’m feeling better now than I did a few months ago,” Schumacher said. He declined to say any more about the expected agreement.