Thursday, August 24, 2017

The owner of East Village Wines says goodbye to the neighborhood


[Photo via Facebook]

East Village Wines, 138 First Ave. between Ninth Street and St. Mark's Place, is now under new ownership.

Imran Ahmed was the store's manager for years before taking over as an owner in 2008.

Ahmed and his team's last day at this shop was on Aug. 7.

This week, he sent an email to the shop's mailing list. Ahmed was happy to have me share the letter here. He did not disclose why he sold the business.

Dear friends,

If you had told me 24 years ago, when I first walked into East Village Wines, that someday I’d be a owner of East Village Wines and a happily married father of two happy and healthy kids, I’d have laughed harder than I ever have. I have spent the majority of my adult life in this store. Through it, you welcomed me into your living rooms, weddings, and one-man shows, with a tall glass and a hug. So it is with a great deal of sadness that I must inform you that I have sold the business, and have left 138 First Avenue in the hands of somebody new.

The East Village is one of the most vibrant and creative places in the world, and it was a pleasure to befriend so many beautiful and talented people while I was here. Some of my customers I have known since they were in the womb (yes, that makes me feel old), back when their parents were regular customers, still swinging from the chandeliers of the East Village. I have loved and lost so many people through this little shop, that is hard to sit back and take it all in.

I have seen a lot of the East Village change in the last quarter century, from riots in the Park to caravans of double-decker tourist buses loading and unloading out front. We stayed open through a few international crises, a handful of hurricanes, and even a blackout. From the Polish butcher next door to Michelin-starred dining across the street, the neighborhood has evolved in ways nobody could have predicted, and I had a front row seat.

I will never be able to repay all the friendship and inclusiveness I have experienced here at East Village Wines. This store has broadened my idea of family, and has given me a place I am proud to call home. I leave this store a happier man. I’m not sure what awaits me, but hopefully, we can sit down sometime and have a glass of wine and talk about it.

Thank you all.


[Image of Ahmed via Yelp.]

There has been a liquor store at the address since after prohibition in 1933. It is known at the moment who the new owners are, and what, if any, changes they might make at East Village Wines.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

He sound's like a wonderful guy and I don't doubt customers were treated well at his shop. All the best in your next adventure.

Unknown said...

Good luck my friend Imran. Please make sure to cruise the EV so we can catch up from time to time.
Love to you, Raquel

Ronnie said...

Imran, you were always there with a warm smile and a chat (many times about the frenetic speed at which our hood was changing!) when I would walk in for a bottle. I wish you all the best in whatever your new life brings you... you will be missed by me and many others.

John M said...

Imran....it's John and Chris. We miss you! Had no idea you were leaving so soon. You have our phone number, give us a call. Not sure if you still have the same phone, tried texting, but...

It's very sad to see the store without seeing you and the guys in there. Hi to Em and the kids!

Love, J & C

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ahmed sounds like a great human being and the kind of business owner this city needs more of. It's a great thing when shops actually benefit their communities and vice versa. I wish him the best!

olympiasepiriot said...

Imran, Bill told me about this huge change and I hope you still have my number! I don't want to loose contact. (This is Sarah, purchaser of the half-bottles.)

I love how you take care of your customers and I hope all is well with your family and that you get a well-deserved break. I want to hear what the next adventure is!

Jen said...

I always looked for you when I walked in, Imran, and you always remembered me over the years, even if it had been awhile. You were an absolute joy to have in the neighborhood and you will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Love this spot.

VH McKenzie said...

I am BEREFT to hear that Imran has sold the business! I've been a steady customer for over 25 years and Imran, just like Bob before him, always made me feel welcome and appreciated - a true neighborhood joint in the best possible meaning of the words!
We've watched one another's families grow and thrive and shared so many wonderful memories. I wish you and your family the best, Imran - I hope you don't stray far from the EV! Much love and more chicken curry coming - from Victoria, Peter and the girls!

Lori E. Seid said...

Many a great party was had at PerfromanceSpace 122 with bottles from Imran and this liquor store.
I hope he & his team have a beautiful journey wherever they go....Cheers!!!!

Candice L. said...

Imran---you will be missed! You always had a smile and remembered me even if I hadn't been in for a while...so neighborly!

Best wishes to you and your family---hope to see you around :)

Anonymous said...

They were always very nice but didn't have a great wine selection.

Anonymous said...

While the store remains open, I don't have the heart to step back in there since Imran hugged me goodbye. How many customers get a hug from a business owner, or a hearty handshake and a pat on the back when you come in. Imran and his team made me feel at home anytime I walked in and if he hadn't seen me for awhile, when I showed back up he would tell me he was worried that I had left the hood. We would talk for a few minutes each time about his life, my life and the changing neighborhood. His smile and warmth would cheer me up if I was down, more than the wine I bought could ever. So many shopping experiences these days, and I shop in stores, are not pleasant. They are simply a transaction and you feel like they don't care if you come back or not. This was a true neighborhood business and Imran was part of the fabric of the neighborhood. His shop in some ways felt like it didn't belong anymore, because everywhere else I seem to go, with a rare few exceptions, no one seems to even care that I walked in the door. I wish him well on the next phase of his journey and hope to bump into him again somewhere along that journey.

Jose Garcia said...

Imran has been one of the joys of the neighborhood for so long it's difficult to imagine we won't still bump into him from time-to-time around the neighborhood. Even when I was among his most frequent customers he'd occasionally let the other Mr. Garcia know that perhaps I was hitting the sauce with a bit too much gusto. And Miss Kita the Wonder Dog always felt at home in his store. Good luck in your next endeavors, Sir! You will be missed. xo, the Jose Garcias and MKTWD.

Anonymous said...

You and your warmth will be missed dearly!
Wishing you a beautiful new beginning!!
Cheers, Amanda ( Dusty Buttons)

Deb said...

Much happiness in your new endeavors as you have given us with your heart full of neighborly love...very hard to find now down here in the EV.

Anonymous said...

I lived on that block for over a decade from the mid 90s. Imran was always more than just a courteous clerk. He was a genuinely warm and kind person who made me feel SEEN, respected, welcomed, appreciated. Once when i had bought two many bottles in a short period he very respectfully suggested i lay off the liquor for a while. He invited me into his private life, invited me to his wedding, gave me hugs and encouragement in life, always had a kind word, seemed to magically remember every detail of my life and made sure to inquire about them, and just always made me feel i was more than just a customer. My heart is so full of love and gratitude to imran for his many years of kindness. Truly a model human being and a fond reminder of the beautiful community the east village used to be.

Melissa said...

Imran-It's Melissa from Fun City! You will be so missed! I hope to still see you around the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

loved this guy. i DONT EVEN DRINK. he was always warm and welcoming. i just ran into him a few weeks back and was greeted with the same smile as always.

Anonymous said...

Imran- you and everyone in your store were always welcoming and so much fun to talk to. And my crazy dog Beny felt just as welcome as I did. He was always greeted with smiles and treats. You and your store made the the east village a very special place, I miss you and wish you and your family the very best
-Nick

Anonymous said...

Imran, Kristin, Gabrielle and I will miss you and your conversation very much. I have been going to the store for over 10 years and noticed last Sunday that the store was open on Sunday for the first time and we were wondering why?! Now we know :(

Good luck to you and your family !

Jeff

Anonymous said...

The business is between St. Marks and 9th, not 7th and St. Marks.

That being said, wonderful local shop. Hope the new owners don't change it up. No reason to fix what ain't broke!

Interesting to know there's been a liquor store in that location since 1933. I wonder if there are any photos of either the interior or exterior through out its history.

Anonymous said...

Okay folks, you're hearing this from someone who lived in the EV from 1981 to 1996. I first met Imran when he was barely old enough to be drinking alcohol. Over the years I became one of the most loyal customers as I went from being a starving musician to just a merely poor one. But I always had enough money to buy wine and I would always stop into the store to shop and chat with Imran. As I started to make a little more money I was able to buy and keep extra bottles around and started my own little cellar in my 4 floor walkup. Then over the years I became quite the wine drinker. It's because of Imran that I have become such a wine connoisseur today. He and his family have been part of my family for decades now and there is no replacing someone like that. I have since moved on and now live in sunny San Diego where life is pretty darn glorious. I hope to entice Imran and his family to move out this way too. Yes, the East Village should grieve his leaving but you can also think of things this way. The vibrancy of the East Village, especially during the bohemian years I spent there discussing politics and the meaning of life at such places as the Binibon or The Bar, gets spread to other corners of the globe where we do our best to keep that energy going in our own way. In recent visits to NYC I found myself looking for the weirdos I so loved about the place only to find there were none. Then upon catching a glimpse in the mirror I realized the weirdo was still residing inside of me and I am definitely one of the weirder people here in San Diego! In closing, I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here but that isn't so important. What is important is to remember that whether you live in a metropolis or a rural area, try to love one another. Imran and I are direct proof that it's worth all the trouble!

George