Gourmet goes to Harlem

New York Magazine reports this week that the Harlem location of one of the city's gourmet food shops, Citarella, is now accepting food stamps....

New York Magazine reports this week that the Harlem location of one of the city's gourmet food shops, Citarella, is now accepting food stamps. They've been in the area for two years, right across the street from a low-income housing project, and seem to be reacting to a tepid reception. After a couple of calls where I was unable to reach anyone in the corporate office, I went to the store yesterday evening to see how things were going.

There were five customers in the store. A poster announcing the change had been posted on the door. And that's about it. I asked two guys sitting in front of a barber shop about half a block down whether they knew about the change. Neither one had any clue. Both men admitted they were once fans of the shop when it opened, but said it was uninviting, giving off a "high class" vibe.

Putting a gourmet food shop across the street from a housing project was probably mistake number one (you think?), but it's obvious that the shop has done nothing to reach out to the locals after they moved in. Does it take two years to figure out that a portion of the population you're serving is on public assistance? And they're obviously not doing anything to promote this offering since people who would be able to hear the manager yell an announcement from the store's front door hadn't heard a thing.

Harlem is a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, so perhaps they were trying to get in early. But now Citarella may be finding that they need the people who are there now before they can count on the people who might move in.

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