Bay Ridge’s oldest health-food store will move at the end of June because its landlord wants to raise the rent to more than what they can afford, one of the stores co-owners told me last week. The owners of Appletree Natural Foods, which has been at 7911 Third Avenue for about 35 years, have seen the space’s rent rise to double and now triple what it was in years past, forcing it to relocate three blocks north, across the street from Omonia Café, presumably to one of two storefronts that recently became available: No. 7613(b), which was briefly Michael’s Holy Land Gifts, a Catholic iconography shop; or No. 7615, Wireless Empire, a cell-phone store that looked like every other cell-phone store. The current location will remain open until the end of June, when the new one will open.
I’m glad we’re not losing Appletree altogether, but I’m sorry to see it have to relocate. Once, I visited the Fairway in Red Hook, and it had a little nook modeled on the old health-food stores of the 1970s. But Appletree is no ironic re-creation; it’s the real deal, with narrow wooden shelves stocked with vitamins and natural soaps and organic alternatives. There was a time when items like whole-wheat bread, soy milk and rice cakes—let alone vegetarian “meat” and gluten-free everything—weren’t sold in supermarkets, and stores like Appletree were essential for those looking to eat healthily or find foods that cater to those with food allergies or alternative diets.
As the health-food store’s stock-in-trade became more mainstream, Appletree has hung on, updating its stock without updating its charming retro vibe, attracting a community of patrons that has kept it open. I’m one: I often make sure to buy a few things there instead of across the street at the Key Food, like tofu and loose oatmeal, not only for nostalgia or for the price and quality, but because to approach the counter is almost always to approach a conversation between shoppers and staff, owners and residents, talking about the latest local news or general health and wellness issues.
It’s these kinds of small communities that make the larger one worth living in. Here’s hoping its loyal customers follow the store a few blocks away, and the old space doesn’t become another goddamn cell-phone store.
7911 Third Avenue was built in 1931, and in 1962 housed Duvall’s Television, a sales and service center, according to information in the Brooklyn Historical Society archives. The building was sold last summer to Roam Realty LLC, according to a search of public records, for $970,000. Roam Realty was created a few months before the sale, and is registered at 8910 Fifteenth Avenue, a private residence in Bath Beach owned by Richard J. and Donna Napolitano.
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