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Alleva Dairy, historic Little Italy cheese shop, to close

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The owner of Little Italy’s famed Alleva Dairy fought to keep the embattled cheese store open — but in the end, she just couldn’t cut it.

Karen King said the iconic shop, at 188 Grand St., will close its doors on March, another victim of COVID’s impact on local businesses.

King and her landlord battled in Civil Court in August and September over King’s rent arrears, but were unable to come to terms until now. According to the store owner the agreement is basically: “Get out! You have 30 days!”

“After a remarkable 130 years, my beloved Alleva Dairy will no longer be on the corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets in Little Italy,” King said, in a statement. “My landlord and I have reached an agreement releasing me from all financial obligations. I will be vacating this location at 188 Grand St. on March 5.”

“I was really hoping that this day would never come and it’s a sad one,” she said. “I have plans to open a new location and continue the Alleva legacy. I want to thank everyone for their love and support.”

Karen King has run Alleva Dairy since 2015. (Courtesy Alleva Dairy)

Alleva Dairy is America’s oldest cheese shop. It’s known for its imported Italian cheeses, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, cured meats, cannolis and more.

King and her husband, actor and former boxing manager John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, bought the history-laden store in 2014. Ciarcia was a cousin of the Allevas. Actor Tony Danza was also reportedly a partner for a while. After Ciarcia died in 2015, King continued to run the shop.

An old-time delivery truck for the store. (Courtesy Alleva Dairy)

The troubles began in March 2020 with the coming of the virus. The pandemic quickly left Little Italy with no tourists — a key source of business for the store — and no foot traffic. The place fell behind in its rent, which was reportedly a mind-boggling $24,000 a month.

“The pandemic devastated my business,” King said, previously, noting she had always paid her bills on time.

After trying but failing to obtain federal funding, King applied for a small business loan to pay her back rent. The loan was finally approved and she offered the landlord $250,000, with the rest to be paid later. However, the landlord still decided to take Alleva to court, demanding the full amount, more than half a million dollars.

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