The owners of the popular fruit stand in front of Trader Joe’s in Cobble Hill have traded their sidewalk spot for a brick-and-mortar shop in Bensonhurst, where they’re selling more than just inexpensive produce, said one of the store’s owners.
“We have every kind of item — a little bit of Arabic, European, Turkish,” said owner Barış Avcı, who opened King Fruit on the corner of 18th Avenue and 67th Street three weeks ago with his brother. “We have stuff to touch every person, not just American[s].”
King Fruit’s grand opening comes about seven years after Avcı, a Kurdish man, moved to the US from Turkey. Soon after his arrival, Avcı got a job working for a fruit vendor in Manhattan, but he and his brother, a yellow cab driver who had moved to the US a few years earlier, decided they wanted to open their own stand, he said.
“We didn’t have much money. We didn’t want to work for someone else, so we said, ‘Let’s start a fruit stand for ourselves,” Avcı said.
The brothers opened their stand on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street outside Trader Joe’s in 2015. The cart quickly became popular because of its low prices, which Avcı’s brother scored by buying produce wholesale from Hunts Point in the Bronx with a group of other fruit stand owners, Avcı said.
The stand’s success allowed the brothers to open a second stand near Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn, which thrived for years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, foot traffic around Downtown Brooklyn and Cobble Hill plummeted, forcing them to shutter their stands and scout out new locations in southern Brooklyn, where the high-density, residential neighborhoods promised a more steady flow of customers. (There is now another fruit vendor outside Trader Joe’s, Avcı said.)
The brothers settled on a location on the corner of 18th Avenue and 67th Street in Bensonhurst, and set up a stand there in the fall, Avcı said. The cart’s immediate popularity inspired the brothers to rent an empty storefront in front of the cart, where they could open their first ever brick-and-mortar store.
The move was only possible because the COVID-19 pandemic had lowered the area’s commercial rents, Avcı explained.
“Before, there was no way we could rent a store. After COVID, a lot of businesses came down and the land owners, they don’t want to keep the store closed.”
Since the store’s grand opening, business has been good, Avcı said. He rents an apartment in the neighborhood, and his brother travels down from his place in Carroll Gardens to work at the new location. Even Avcı’s sister and parents, whom Avcı and his brother brought over to the US, come to help out every now and then, he said.
And to the customers’ delight, the prices have remained as low as they always were.
“Business is good. It’s very busy because we’re keeping the price the same as the fruit stand,” he said. “It’s better than we were expecting.”
This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.