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Endangered Brooklyn Deli Owner Hopes Neighbors Get Message With Pretentious, Overpriced Product Ads

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Brooklyn deli that has been around for decades suddenly jacked up the cost of its goods, and the owner hopes they will understand what he's trying to do.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reported, Jesse's Deli has served the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn for 25 years. But shelves may not be re-stocked after this month.

"This is a great neighborhood, you know? Great people," said deli owner Jesse Itayim.

Itayim has seen Boerum Hill change drastically over the last quarter century that he has been in business at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street. But Jesse's Deli has stayed the same all through that time, and customers do not want the deli to close.

"I don't want to leave" Itayim said. "We've been here a long time. It's a big change for us if we leave."

But Itayim is being hit by rising rents that are pushing him out, 1010 WINS' Gary Baumgarten reported this past weekend.

"It's a little sad to see the shelves being emptied out," said Itayim's son, Mohenad Itayim.

Signs have been posted at the deli to show how high prices would have to be raised to keep up with rent.

And the products have been rebranded with mockingly pretentious names such as a "curated selection of extension cords" for $8.97, "Bushwick baked vegan cat food" priced up to $6, "grass fed Himalayan tuna salad for $9.99 per pound, and "artisanal roach bombs for $15.99." Slim Jims become "cured salumi tubes" for $5.99 apiece, and your morning coffee becomes a "Burr ground funnel dripped espresso shot" for $5.

And a six-pack of Budweiser becomes "air chilled Budweiser beer flights" for $33.50.

Tying it all together, another sign reads: "Jesse's, Keeping up with the gentry – 2.5 times the price storewide."

"It's devastating, devastating," said resident Patti Sullivan.

The posters of the rebranded, marked up products were put up by neighbors, protesting the rent hike that is forcing Jesse's Deli out. More than 1,000 customers signed a petition sent to the landlord.

"I feel so sad," said a neighbor named Jose. "He's been here for so many years - it's a shame the way the rent is. I'm going to really miss him."

Deli owner Itayim said every year, his rent has increased by marginal amounts. But this time around, the increase was astronomical.

To stay, he has to pay $10,000 a month and make changes to his kitchen. The current rent is $4,000.

"It's a shame. This business has been around for 25 years, and people are going to raise rents exponentially," said Dan Halioua. "I've lived in Brooklyn for 34 years. It's pretty heartbreaking when places close down; when neighborhood establishments close down."

Many neighbors emphasized just how important Itayim's presence is in the area.

"He's a fixture in the neighborhood," said Jerry Haggerty.

"We will be lost without them," added Josephine Haggerty. "My milk, eggs; my ice cream, coffee."

Sullivan said it is not just about the convenience of the store.

"It's really goes to the safety of the neighborhood," she said. "If you are coming home late at night, they always made you feel safe."

Itayim's son grew up working in the store.

"A lot of basic amenities like laundromats, pharmacies got priced out or kicked out because of new developments, so services we provide are not there anymore," said Mohenad Itayim.

"As unaffordable as Brooklyn is, places like this are important to keeping the DNA of the borough," added Halioua.

CBS2 reached out to landlord Karina Bilger for comment, but she did not return attempts to contact her.

"Reconsider," said Josephine Haggerty. "Keep a good guy – he's honest."

For the record, an egg sandwich at the deli usually only costs $2.50. The "slow-cooked vintage breakfast sandwich" costs $10.99.

The owner reached out to his landlord and offered up a 50 percent rent increase from $4,000 to $6,000 a month, but was denied.

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