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Friday, March 14, 2014

P. DeRosa Grocery

I recently discovered that the original storefront of the first DeRosa to come to America was still standing on 8th Street between 4th & 5th Avenues in Brooklyn. Here is the pic from Google Maps.

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It came to my attention from my cousin who told me about an article written by Willard Spiegelman for the Wall St. Journal entitled Cultural Connections in a Tour of Brooklyn, which he found out about at a recent DeRosa family picnic. From the article: "My guide was the estimable CUNY sociologist William Helmreich, whose forthcoming book "The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City" is a lively account of his four years of treks (1,500 miles annually) through all five boroughs."

Also from the article: "Then we drove down Fourth Avenue into Gowanus, where we stopped on Eight Street for a visit to one of Mr. Helmreich's other urban finds. A plate-glass window at No 180 1/2 announced at a building void of other signs of commerce -- 'P. deRosa Grocery,' with Schaefer and Rheingold beer signs beneath. The main entrance to the house is next door, at 180. What was this?

If you see something, ask something: That's the key to becoming an urban sociologist. On an earlier trek, Mr. Helmreich met Mr. Helmreich met Mr. de Rosa's grandson, who gave him the skinny. Paolo de Rosa came to Brooklyn at the turn of the last century and opened his little market, which closed in 1972. His son and now his grandson have kept the original plate glass intact as a gesture of respect to the Sicilian "nonno."

Paul de Rosa and his wife, Doris, came outside. I asked about an appealing 19th-century frame house across the street. "That was the original farmhouse here," Mr. de Rosa said. It's now the residence of Steve Hindy, the owner of Brooklyn Brewery. Who knew?"

I certainly didn't know about the original store's intact window, nor its exact location, but I do know our name is not spelled deRosa, it's DeRosa. I also don't know who Paolo is. I always thought it was my great-grandfather who owned the grocery.

My Great Grandparents, my Grandfather and his sister early 1900's

Apparently not, as if it had been him, then my father would have had a brother, Paul, who was quoted in the article. Did my great-grandfather own a different grocery? I don't know. Was Paolo my great-grandfather's brother? I'm leaning towards that scenario. Maybe my great grandfather worked in the family store. I don't know. That was one thing about my dad, he barely ever spoke about his family.  I was extremely close to his father, but grandpa died before I became interested in  family history. I have so many questions now, and no one to answer them. Don't squander the time you have with the elders like I did.

Two things are certain -- The next time I'm up in Brooklyn I plan on visiting the storefront to take some pictures in front of the original plate glass window. and knocking on the door next to it. And...I plan on getting a copy of The New York Nobody Knows. Mother's Day is coming up.


  1. My uncles once owned the building 188 8th Street and the building next to it. My brothers and sisters always went to this store to buy penny candy. I'm so happy to see that the original plate glass window and sign still exist.

    1. Small world :) Thanks for stopping by...

  2. Just passed it this morning after dropping my car off for repair on Fourth Avenue. Interesting. I'll have to ask my mom, who grew up on Sackett Street in Brooklyn, if she remembers it from her childhood.