#ShopSmall Fulton Street: Prince Deli & Smoke Shop
When you enter the Prince Deli and Smoke Shop on 1318 Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant, you see a glass-fronted showcase that runs almost the entire length of the store. Behind the glass are fruits and vegetables of every kind-- kale, celery, apple, spinach, ginger, lemon, parsley, bananas, and more. People are milling around the front area, giving elaborate and delicious-sounding orders, such as: “A Hollywood Tuna Sandwich for me, with cheddar cheese, hot peppers, lettuce and tomato!”
In the three years that Prince Deli has been doing business at this location, it has established itself as an important neighborhood landmark. Its owners – Arab immigrants from Yemen – and customers are both emblematic of the rich ethnic and racial diversity of today’s Bed-Stuy. We recently spoke to 23-year-old Malik Saleh, who manages the store for his family.
You say your family has two other stores in downtown Brooklyn. Why did you decide to set up this business in Bed-Stuy?
We came to this location because we realized it gets a lot of foot traffic. We also noticed that there were not a lot of healthy food options on this stretch of Fulton Street, so it seemed like a good place for a deli.
What changes in the neighborhood have you noticed in the time you have been here?
When we first moved here, the security situation was a bit sketchy…we used to have two or three incidents every month. As we got to know our neighbors and the community, it got better. Now it’s much safer. Another thing is that with so many people moving to Bed-Stuy nowadays, the rents are rising fast, which is a problem for businesses like us.
Judging from the crowds thronging this place every morning and afternoon, your deli seems very popular. How do you account for its popularity?
We are popular because we offer good, healthy food at a reasonable prices, prepared in a clean environment. There’s a good variety in our menu choices. When a customer walks in here, he or she feels safe and comfortable. We are also very particular about using only fresh ingredients.
Who are your typical customers?
We get all kinds of people, but mostly people who work in this neighborhood. This is mainly a business district, so many people come here to work in the stores, offices, banks and construction projects. They all come here to eat.
Do you use any of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s services? What kind of a connection do you have with Restoration?
We don’t use any of Restoration’s services ourselves, but I sometimes send my customers to the Plaza, because I know you guys have lots of services that benefit members of this community. And Restoration is certainly good for business – we often make deliveries to Restoration staff, and also cater some of your parties and events. But above all, I consider Restoration folks as my friends.
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