Monday, September 21, 2020

Native Bean wraps up 20 years on Avenue A


Text and photos by Stacie Joy

I sat down with Ali Aljerari, partner in the Native Bean at 36 Avenue A (previously located at 50 Avenue A) to talk about why, after more than 20 years, his cafe has closed as of this past weekend.

"The problem," Ali says, "is I cannot pay rent. The landlord is asking for rent and the city is charging the landlord real-estate taxes, which go up every year. I need to pay rent, of course, and we are receiving no help from the city or state. No one is getting assistance from the government. We cannot survive the elements and adversities now — it's too overwhelming. Too big. We navigated 9/11, we navigated storms and disasters. We are waiting…but there is no help. The government should give landlords tax breaks — that would help.

"There is hostility from the city to us, the small businesses," he continues. "We are just a source of revenue to them and we are subject to harsh treatment. Every time an investigator comes it's a couple thousand dollars. Agencies just write tickets and charges. Small businesses are the heart of the city but we have no voice. I wish the city were kinder." 

[Aljerjari with manager Mahammad Fofana]

I asked him how, if at all, the neighborhood — he’s also a long-term resident here — could help.

"The most beautiful people in the world are in the East Village. This neighborhood has the sweetness and beauty, it surpasses anything I had in my mind," he says. "People here are a treasure. I grew up in the neighborhood, and it made me who I am today. It is I who owes this neighborhood; they don’t owe me anything."

Ali doesn't rule out opening another business in the future, when COVID-19 subsides.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cuomo & Blasio!

Anonymous said...

Heartbreaking.

fierce prey said...

Booo. Another good spot gone - come back somewhere else!

Greg Masters said...

This one hits hard. I loved this place. The food was good but it was the guys behind the counter who were so pleasant that elevated the experience for me. Good luck to all. And thank you Stacie Joy for your ace reporting and to EVG for celebrating the neighborhood glories.

Goggla said...

This one really hurts. I've loved Native Bean for years - it's one of the spots in the neighborhood where you feel like family. The people here work so hard and are always a joy to be around. I'm really going to miss them and wish them the best of luck in these hard times.

Anonymous said...

Ali and his team at Native Bean always served this community with a smile and it's truly a loss for our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that de Blasio calls himself a progressive when all he does is fight small businesses, community gardens, composting, parents and schools...

Anonymous said...

Great spot and Ali and his team were always so cool and kind. It's a damn shame that our pathetic Governor and mayor can't work to freeze these rapacious commercial rents.

Anonymous said...

This is gut-wrenching - I'm so sorry to hear it! Have been a loyal customer and friend since Bagel Zone days. Ali and the team are salt of the earth - and will be greatly missed in our lives. We fervently hope for a future establishment. Meanwhile, wishing them the very best.

Anonymous said...

Need a tax reform in NYC. Everything is taxed too high while upstate sucks blood from the city and gives nothing in return. Small businesses will continue to drain from this high tax lifestyle. Lower small business and sales tax and shift the burden to a millionaires+ tax.

Paul said...

Oh no! I was literally ordering lunch as Ali was being interviewed. I had assumed it was an interview about how tough things were for local business, but I had no idea it was the final blow.

So sorry to hear this news. As others have said here, Ali and his crew were what made this place special. So so sad to see this one go.

stephen b said...

We'll see you again, friend

Colette said...

We will miss you and everyone who worked at Native Bean. Please be well and come back soon!

Anonymous said...

No surprise here. NYC has an unemployment rate more than double the national average. This is self induced. Other states have somehow figured out how to reopen and try to slowly get back to normal. This is on the mayor and governor. There will be very few businesses open by January.

Spike said...

Ugh. Friendliest staff in town. You will be missed.

Dennis said...

So sad. Ali, Nester, and all the people who worked at Native Bean were just the best of the best. I love them all. I wish them the very best, and will miss them, so.

anonymous said...

What are Corey Johnson and Carlina Rivera doing about the plight of small businesses in our neighborhood? Nothing that I can see. NYC and state government has let them (and us!) down completely.

Sarah said...

These businesses are dying of a lack of a FEDERAL plan with FEDERAL support for both workers and businesses at this time. It's a huge pity.

chris flash said...

So sorry to see Ali throw in the towel, but what choice does he have? We had a discussion about this just a few weeks ago. It's ALL FUCKED.

As for Ali's interview with Stacie, it makes sense to lower taxes on small property owners on the condition that they lower rents for small businesses. Those I know in the management field all tell me that property taxes keep increasing, along with utilities, water and insurance, while residential rents are frozen. Without commercial rents to cover costs that residential rents do not, many small owners will lose their buildings.

My sources believe that this is a plan by the city to force small owners to sell to large real estate vultures who will then get rid of low-paying renters.

This is nothing short of a conspiracy to destroy NYC as we have known it all of our lives by changing the demographics of our city in favor of the uber-wealthy.

NYC has already been dying a death of a thousand cuts for the past 3 decades.

Anonymous said...

Terrible news. The only place to get an affordable BEC and actually sit and enjoy it. The staff here are wonderful. Why isn't there more help for small businesses like this from the state?

afbp said...

when a landlord purchases a building---they take a risk---commercial rent should not be lifeline nor a cash account for that landlord---appreciation should/must be the reward---commercial rent stabilization may be a viable solution......

Anonymous said...

Agree with many responders that this is a painful loss - maybe the most painful. (Odessa was tough too, but mainly because of Willy.) Like others, my family and I had been going to Native Bean for years. Interestingly, to me anyways, NB was one of very few spots that you would consistently interact with cops socially. Cops loved NB - right? Just thought I'd mention that because I don't think many places have the broad appeal that NB had. Wish Ali and the entire staff all the best.

Anonymous said...

Love them.... sad to see this. they were there when i started my business, always had good coffee and bagels.

Rachel said...

This one really, really hurts. So many great memories of this place. I hope Native Bean and their wonderful team will be able to open up another business post-covid. Thanks for years of kindness and delicious food, Native Bean! You will be missed.

Anonymous said...

This is not as much of an issue in other places that are more open. That is why the feds won't intervene. Not every place has these issues. NYC is destroy ing it's economy while other places are slowly coming back to life. This is also more about rents and property taxes and the insane fees and regulations NYC has that other places don't have. NYC is the worst place in America to run a small business.

Jason_Chatfield said...

My daily morning stop for the past 6 years (and when they were further North on A).
I'd call ahead when I was crossing 3rd and B every morning and they had my cell programmed into their phone; so they'd pick it up and say "Helloooo Mister Chatfield. Espresso in five minutes!" and they'd have it ready when I walked in - some days they would just pick up and yell, "You got it, buddy! and hang up." I'd have correct change and a tip, and only then could I start the day. So sad to see the end of this beautiful small business. Good luck, Ali and the guys.

Caroline Takoulo said...

My life was forever changed by the Bagel Zone / Native Bean. I met the love of my life there, a gorgeous Cameroonian barista who became my husband. This café was his first US workplace and 17 years later he’s an electrical engineer and we often talk about what we both learned at the Native Bean and the life it gave us. Nesta, we’ll see you soon and Al, thank you for creating such a magical place.

Anonymous said...

Really sad but the anti Cuomo and de Blasio posts are getting tiresome - this is after all a pandemic. Sorry but they could not have stopped this. Mitigated maybe but not stopped.

david said...

I have lived in NYC for 35 years, in all the time here i have never met a nicer staff. Ali i wish you all the best on future ventures. It is a sad day for the East Village

panthera said...

Agree. NYC, NY, and for that matter, CA are SIGNIFICANTLY higher unemployment than other states / the national average. I was down in the South visiting family recently and the economy was booming - traffic jams, parking lots bursting everywhere. NYC is anti-business, which is astounding because small businesses are what make NYC so special (or used to, before all the For Lease vacancies). The working class depends on these jobs, tourism, etc - and are the ones most hurt by policy. Lawyers, bankers, tech folks - they will be fine. The political mismanagement is crushing *real* people, and business owners like Ali who provide opportunities for them. Vote people - and use your beautiful minds critically - don't mindlessly follow party lines. If we don't do something about this, people will suffer unnecessarily. NYC will always survive, but what do we want it to look like?

Anonymous said...

What a loss. They are the nicest store in the neighborhood.

frank rothman said...

This one hurts. Grest food, the best staff in the EV, and a place where everybody knows your name. Thanks for years of hit coffee, tremendous food and the best smiles and chit chat. You guys will truly be missed xoxo

Chad Marlow said...

This one hurts more than all the others for me. I've been taking my kids here since they were babies and the folks who worked there felt like family. Just horrible.

Anonymous said...

Great places like this close, yet Tues 9/22 Cabin at 205 E. 4 Street is having a huge indoor party past midnight tonight blasting music and with black plastic on all the windows and some people in/out w/o masks...and that’s all ok???

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to see Native Bean close. It's close to the school my kids attend in the neighborhood and we would often stop by. I appreciated the kind and friendly service.

The problem lies at the Federal level. The city and state are hurting and the federal government needs to step in with adequate relief for small businesses instead of billions of COVID relief dollars that get funneled to Trump's cronies. VOTE!!!

sophocles said...

I wish I had known that the Native Bean was so beloved. Why didn't anyone tell me?

Anthony Donovan said...

It's with tremendous sadness, that my dear neighbor and friend Ali Aljerrari, after over 20 years serving as a great resource center, a community and activist meeting ground, nourishing whole food, with uplifting good souls serving us, they've had to close, largely due to rent.

Ali is the prime person that got me walking the streets speaking to stores and contacting our Representatives last spring on how we can meet this challenge in a fair way. We sat in Tompkins Sq. Park to hammer our the details of what's needed. We understand Covid, but not the takeover of Small Business. The answer lies in all giving something..... Small Business, Landlord, and the State. This way all can survive. Including shout outs to the few landlords doing the right thing, but most... aren't and don't care. Simple.

Our representatives, who speak smoothly and nod their heads like they hear you, did not, have not ACTed like they knew what the word Emergency or Urgency means. They have acted much to slow and without conviction.

The community, their consituents have solutions, and our Reps by NOT leading, have let thousands of Small Business's go under, their lives with it, while large Real Estate gains. Let's remember this at election time.

We're still pushing them, but this news is extremely disheartening. Real Estate, knows how to make surethey make out like the bad kind of bandits. What's happening before us, is criminal.

Thank you EVgrieve for posting.
Native Bean staff.... you brought light, wisdom, belonging, and Community here. You know how to make the World a much better place, and lived it every day. In our hearts.... until the next manifestation!

Anonymous said...

Sure you don’t want to change your mind and start a go fund me campaign? I’m sure so many people would help !!!!!! You are so loved in the neighborhood !

Anonymous said...

I dunno if this is the right forum for this - but can anyone recommend a place in the neighborhood that serves a good toasted bagel? I used to love the ones at Native Bean, and can't find anywhere else that measures up - a lot of places don't seem to do actual toasting, but "warming" or microwaving instead.