Charlie Sahadi - 2006
How have you seen Downtown Brooklyn change over all these years?
It's changed many times. In the '70s, Atlantic Antic [an annual street fair on Atlantic Avenue, started in 1974 to promote neighborhood businesses] was behind the rebirth of Downtown Brooklyn, and I'm grateful to them for what they did. This street was going to be made into a thoroughfare—like the West Side Highway—but now, 30 years later, we're still here.
What do you think about the stadium plans?
Personally, I'm not for big, big development. An arena alone might be OK. I mean, I'm for development. You have to develop—things can't be frozen in time. But I'm against overdevelopment. I study the traffic flow in this area, and I see a traffic nightmare that's going to occur for a long time. People keep talking about the jobs, and I say, yes, we need more jobs, but at what cost? A phrase like eminent domain is one thing when you're building a necessary service for everyone in the community, like a road. But when you're doing it for a profit, it's a different thing. I'm an entrepreneur—I understand that part of it, but this is on such a scale.
What are some of your favorite places in New York—aside from Sahadi's, of course.
This is my favorite place. Do I have to have another favorite place?
No, you don't have to.
Well, there are some places we like in Bay Ridge—we don't live downtown, we're from Bay Ridge. There's Tuscany Grill on 89th and Third in Bay Ridge and Sally and George's on 79th and Third. Our favorite is Gino's on 75th and Fifth. That's a wonderful place.
How long have you lived in Bay Ridge?
I was born in Bay Ridge Hospital, which is now St. Nicholas Home for the Aged, so I may earn the distinction of being born and dying in the very same building. In many ways we are spoiled, because we have everything in New York. Every kind of food, the best plays, it's a tough city to beat. And the sights—the Verrazano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. We go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, but they're probably talking about the Empire State Building!
If you had to choose you'd say Brooklyn is the best borough?
Oh, yes, of course. The other boroughs look up to us. People are always going on about Manhattan, but Brooklyn's got its own history. I'm sure people in Queens and the Bronx feel the same way. I try to be involved in this area, even though I don't live around here, I feel like Atlantic is my street. It's a real neighborhood with caring people. Not all neighborhoods are like that.
Are you going to stay closed on Sundays?
We intend to stay closed on Sunday for the rest of our lives. We have six grandchildren, and we're very family oriented. We like to do things together. I know Mr. Macy is not in every Macy's, but our particular success factor is that there's always a Sahadi in the store. I like it that way. I'm the first one in and the last one out. My wife says I have my hands in too many things. Years ago, my daughter had a dance recital. It started at 7:30. At 7:05, I'm locking the door to the store, and this guy shows up and says he came all this way, and he's begging me to let him shop. He says he was going to spend $300. I said, "I'm sorry, but if you were going to spend $30,000, it wouldn't matter. My daughter's in a dance recital." Money's important, but it's not everything.
Anything else you want to say about New York?
Soon after 9-11, about 120 kids from Mary McDonnell School came marching up to Sahadi's to give me signs thanking me for being their neighbor, and singing songs of peace and love. I just lost it. It was a miserable time but also a time that brought us together. And for that I'm grateful to be a Brooklynite and a New Yorker.
What's a perfect day in New York?
Low humidity, bright sunshine, and lots of smiles coming in the door.