My dad and his two younger brothers started in the produce business in the 80's. My father, Lou, took great pride in the family business, Manhattan Fruit Exchange, which he helped build as he established wondrous relationships with people from the blossoming Chelsea neighborhood and his great friendship with Mr. Cohen. Irwin once told me, "Manhattan Fruit Exchange was my first tenant. At the time, it was only a wholesaler a few blocks away. I convinced Lou to go into retail. He said he'd never done that. I said, 'Neither did I — let's learn together.'" My dad, his brothers, and several other incredible small business owners from the likes of Amy's Bread, Chelsea Wine Vault, Sarabeth's, The Lobster Place and Irwin all set out to effect change. Irwin's vision was to "make the neighborhood comfortable enough so that an 8-year-old could shop at the market and get home safely." The mission was simple back then: engage the locals and deliver a value-add offering. That was the beginning. Eventually, it became a true family business with many of my siblings and cousins having a role in it.
Fast forward 21 quick years.
In 2017, we were approached by Michael Phillips and Jamestown to move downstairs, which we were glad to do. The hope was to embrace the LOCAL for all their produce and grocery needs and help incubate the newly built downstairs space. I became the owner of the retail store in Chelsea Market and my dad retired, never staying to far from the action. His goals then and my goals now are the same: to serve the local community with passion, virtue and deliver the best value possible to legacy customers and building my own relationships with those I encounter daily. Chelsea is NYC with it’s beautiful diversity of age, race, income or love and respect of personal choice. I am so proud to serve this exquisite, charming and alluring neighborhood.
And so it all restarted with a fruit stand in the newly built “Chelsea Local”.
The pioneering spirit of those before me is what drives my own desire to serve Chelsea; to be a successful small business owner; to be a loving wife, a lucky mother of 3 angels and to be a good friend. The subterranean space, which grants Manhattan Fruit customers direct access to 16th street, is specifically aimed toward LOCALS. This is a direct response to criticism that “the market has been overrun by tourists in recent years and doesn’t live up to the original idea as a place for locals.”
A wide selection of high-quality produce and good prices are the main attractions for any local marketplace. We aim to offer the finest produce, a broad grocery selection, fresh juice and smoothie bar, hot & cold meals on-the-go and awesome daily buffet, cheese, charcuterie, large and small corporate catering and of course wholesale produce. We also try to foster a culture with a commitment to principles that we all deem important like value priced natural and organic foods, fair-trade goods, locally farmed foods, and fair labor practices—and loyalty to our great customers.
The New Yorker wrote an article a few years back where it said, “Produce lovers with a raging case of baby fever should head immediately to Manhattan Fruit Exchange to coo over the bounty of cute and tender fruit and veggies on display: baby artichokes, arugula, beets, bananas, carrots, pineapples and turnips—you get the idea. For those who prefer their produce more mature, the Chelsea Market anchor has plenty of full-size offerings, too. From the seasonal and local (think wild asparagus, ramps and fiddleheads in spring, Red Jacket Orchard apples in the fall) to the far-flung and exotic—like Colombian gooseberries and Australian rambutan fruit—this is where the Green Market meets Dean and Deluca, although the prices cleave to the former. You’ll count ten kinds of squash, a dozen dried and fresh mushrooms (including the beautiful and rare blue foot and king oyster varieties) and enough leafy greens and vivid berries to keep you in antioxidants for years. There’s even an organic corner and a wall of dried fruits and nuts in case the harvest of conventional produce doesn’t suit you.”
I can only hope to come close in the downstairs space to what my dad and his brothers did upstairs.
I know that many local people fondly remember the store upstairs. Those that have gotten to know me know that I try to deliver that same or better level of service and value-add. And I won’t ever stop. The new store and the lower LOCAL is different, but the focus is the same – priority on the customer and delivering best in class service. As part of this goal, we invested in technology capable of offering new services via www.manhattanfruitmarket.com for retail and wholesale. Through it, we offer “click and collect” where customers can buy online and come by the store to pick up their orders “bagged and ready-to-go” at designated times for no fee. We also have straight 1 hour delivery where customers can buy online and choose a delivery slot. Or, customers can come to the store, choose their favorite lemons and melons, and we’ll deliver them.
In closing, we all know that Google is now the proud owner of Chelsea Market. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They are going to do the same with their new home in Chelsea, succeeding at fostering an even healthier eco-system for the LOCAL and enriching us all with enhanced offerings. To new beginnings of old, time tested values and services. Welcome back to YOUR LOCAL MARKET.
For my Dad and his brothers it was always about people, for me it still is. Whether it is family or community, Sticking together and supporting one another is still what makes this business special. This community is special and the new Chelsea Local is special! Please come by the store and ask for me if you have any questions or just to say Hi! See you soon.