NEW YORK (PIX11)– After providing New Yorker’s with some of the finest cheeses for almost 40 years, Vincent Campanelli and his brother served their loyal customers for the last time on Saturday.
“This is a decision we didn’t want to make, but it was a decision we had to make.”
Tucked away on Sullivan Street in SoHo, Joe’s Dairy is one of the few reminders of an older New York, when the neighborhood was primarily Italian and where the words Mozzarella and Ricotta never existed.
“Mutzedel” “Ragawt” you got your own little language there.”
Faced with rising rents and a shrinking customer base, Campanelli says the family just couldn’t afford to keep it open.
On the final day of business for the neighborhood institution, life-long customers packed the store to get their hands on one final ball of smoked mozzarella.
“I know they make it themselves, I know it’s fresh, I know it’s local,” said loyal customer Susan Freel.
“Our goal was just to provide a good product and 36 years I think we’ve been pretty good.”
So good that some customers could not believe the news, “When I found out at the cash register I burst into tears,” said Susan McElroy.
“You think you’re selling cheese, and you start going up layers, it’s a whole of a lot more than you thought.”
While Joe’s customers say they’ll miss the familiar faces and fresh cheese they’ve always known here at the store, they say Joe’s closing is more symbolic of a bigger problem for mom and pop shops here in SoHo.
“They’re a dying breed of shops and it’s just a shame really to see that intimate sort of shop closing,” said film maker Piero Iberti.
Piero Iberti is a customer and filmmaker whose been working on a documentary about the store for two years.
He says what makes the store so special is the quality and customer service from small business owners who are invested in the community.
“You’re greeted with people who actually care how you feel and you’re not just going to buy and get out.”
That’s why customers like Susan Freel, who’ve been shopping at the store for more than 30 years, say it will be so hard to see it close.
“I wish that my little bucks would keep them alive, but I’m just one person.”
But Campanelli says without customers like Freel, he and his brother would never have even been able to keep the store open as long as they did.
“Basically I want to thank you for being there for us, because without you we wouldn’t have been here for 36 years.”
While Joe’s Dairy store is now closed, the brothers will continue to run the wholesale business; which means soon the only place you’ll be able to find the famous smoked mozzarella will be in one of the stores that forced Joe’s Dairy to shut down.