Little Italy building that once housed oldest cheese shop in America scheduled to be torn down after façade collapse

Site of Little Italy façade collapse
The former owner of America’s oldest cheese shop is reacting to the news that the home of her old business will be torn down after the building’s facade partially collapsed in Little Italy on Wednesday.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Little Italy building that once housed America’s oldest cheese shop before its façade collapsed last week will soon be torn down.

When bricks came showering from 188 Grand St. on Jan 10, eyewitnesses said it sounded like an explosion — sending nearby pedestrians and those on the inside running for cover. The debris crushed the surrounding construction fencing. Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported.

The incident drew hundreds of first responders and many more onlookers assembling feet away from the massive hole in the building and the encompassing rubble.

“I heard a boom. I saw the building and the people were in the window looking, people were screaming ‘Get out, get out of the building. Leave the building!’ It was scary,” local Marjorie Carrillo told amNewYork Metro just after the incident, “It looked like an earthquake.”

Sources familiar with the incident say ongoing construction on the property, which included the removal of several steel rods, triggered the façade collapse. According to the Department of Buildings (DOB), permits for the construction had not yet been officially approved, but work went on anyway.

But the damage was severe that the entire building must now come down due to the instability and concern of greater collapse.

“The chimney collapse as well as illegal unpermitted construction work found inside the building have significantly destabilized the structure. Our engineers have determined that the damaged building is now posing an imminent hazard to the public, and in order to prevent an uncontrolled collapse we have ordered the property owners to start preparations for an emergency demolition of the entire building,” the DOB said in a statement.

The building was once home to Alleva Dairy, said to be the oldest cheese shop in the country after it was apparently founded more than 130 years ago until it was forced to close last year due to financial straits. Operated by Karen King for more than half a decade after her husband passed away, King said she was stunned to learn of the collapse.

Karen King, owner of Alleva Dairy, formerly of Little Italy
“My heart just fell a couple of beats,” Karen King said. Photo by Dean Moses

 “Like most people, I was shocked to learn about the collapse of the second floor at 188 Grand Street, the former home of my beloved Alleva Dairy, the oldest cheese shop in America,” King said. “Typically, on any given day there would have been dozens of people in the store buying fresh mozzarella and cannolis. Thank God, no one was hurt, and everyone is safe.”

These remarks came before the female business owner learned that the building will soon be demolished. However, when news of the planned bulldozing reached King, she became emotional.

“My heart just fell a couple of beats,” King said, refusing to speak further on the subject.

The demolition is expected to take place in the coming week.