Two of the most successful and enduring small Brooklyn businesses, Sahadi’s specialty grocery and Deno’s Wonder Wheel, were recently honored by the city for being an indelible part of the fabric of the borough for over 100 years.
On Thursday, Feb. 27, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop and other leaders joined together in an inaugural event to recognize the hard work and dedication of 10 centennial small businesses across the five boroughs and their contributions to local communities.
Bishop noted that many small businesses don’t make it past five years. “So I put out the call to all the chambers across the city and said that we want to acknowledge and celebrate businesses that have been around for over a century,” Bishop explained. “We recognize that small businesses are the economic engine of New York City.”
New York City Councilmember Mark Gjonaj presented the awards to the honorees.
Sahadi’s, with its two locations at 187 Atlantic Ave. and Industry City, boasts 122 years of serving the finest in high quality Middle Eastern food.
The James Beard Award-winning Sahadi’s has it all: dried figs and fruits, pistachios, a wide-variety of cheeses, meat pies, creamy hummus, nuts, olives, breads, delicious Lebanese sweets, baked goods, baklava and barrels of coffee beans ready for roasting.
The store has an incredibly rich history. In the 1890s, Abrahim Sahadi opened A. Sahadi & Co. on Washington Street in Manhattan. In the 1920s, Wade Sahadi came to America from Lebanon and went to work with his uncle Abrahim. Wade opened Sahadi Importing Co. on Washington Street. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel construction drove Sahadi to purchase a building on Atlantic Avenue where the business eventually relocated in the late 1940s.
In 1963, Wade’s two older sons Charlie and Richard joined the flourishing business. In the 1970s. Wade’s youngest son Bob joined the business along with Charlie’s wife Audrey.
When Charlie and Audrey retired a few years ago, their son Ron, daughter Christine Whelan and son-in-law Pat Whelan took over management duties, along with Bob.
“It’s hard to be here for more than 100 years but we’re still chugging along,” said Christine. “We’ve opened a new location so we’re definitely looking forward to the next 100 years. We’re fourth generation and my son will be fifth when he starts in June.
“We love being part of Brooklyn, so it makes it even more of a pleasure to be here,” she added.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It was built in 1920 by Charles Hermann and the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company and owned by Herman Garms. It remains one of Coney Island’s most sought-out attractions and is unusual in offering its riders the option of taking a spin in either a stationary or swinging car.
Deno Vourderis bought the Wonder Wheel in 1983 and built other rides around it including Spook-a-Rama. After Deno’s death, his sons added their father’s name to the original Ferris wheel. It has been a landmark since 1989.
“We were extremely honored to be a part of the centennial celebration with so many other iconic businesses,” Deno (D.J.) Vourderis told this paper.
“The Vourderis family has worked in Coney Island for four generations. We didn’t get where we are today without standing on the shoulders of giants. We are thankful to a community that is, and always was, accepting of immigrants, a community that didn’t discriminate based on where you were from, where you played, or whom you loved. As we celebrate our 100th year of happy faces, we invite everyone to come join in the festivities with special events planned for Memorial Day weekend, which is exactly the date the Wonder Wheel first opened in 1920,” added Vourderis.
The other small business honorees were Holtermann’s Bakery and Supreme Chocolatier in Staten Island; Sussman-Automatic Corporation and Bellitte Bicycles in Queens; Eneslow Shoes & Orthotics and Russ & Daughters in Manhattan; and Teitel Brothers and Mario’s Restaurant in the Bronx.
Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, was thrilled to celebrate the rich history of small businesses in Brooklyn.
“Sahadi’s and Deno’s Wonder Wheel have both had a deep-rooted, positive impact on our communities and Russ & Daughters recently expanded to Brooklyn. These multi-generational companies exemplify how critical local business is to create and grow vibrant neighborhoods by investing for the long-term,” he said.