Italian Businesses in Dyker Heights Cater to New Customers

Antonio Chavez, owner of Grandma’s Bakery on 13th Ave. in Dyker Heights. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Changing demographics in the once-heavily Italian neighborhood of Dyker Heights has resulted in Hispanic restaurants taking the place of Italian ones and Asian groceries replacing Italian delis. The Asian population has nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, with Chinese making up the majority, while the increase in the Hispanic population is the second largest at more than 55 percent.

BKLYNER’s Paul Frangipane speaks to Italians who have turned their business over to more recent immigrants, like Peter Misseri, an Italian American who sold Grandma’s Bakery to Antonio Chavez, a Mexican immigrant who started out as a cleaner. The move mirrors Misseri’s own story of buying up Grandma’s in 1985 after working there for two years.

“If I was here, if I was still the owner with the same old mentality, I don’t think it would have survived,” Misseri, 51, said about the way Chavez maintains the business. “We have a diverse neighborhood so we have a diverse owner. It’s not your traditional Italian neighborhood anymore.”

He went on to say: “Now we have a diverse clientele of Chinese-American, Arab-American, Mexican-American, ya know what it makes for, it actually makes for better business.”

Frangipane also speaks to Carlo Formisano, the manager of La Pera Bros who sold the business to Yemeni immigrants 12 years ago. What does he think of the change in demographics? How have the store’s products changed to reflect the new communities?

Find out at BKLYNER.

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