Jack Morris, famed New Jersey entrepreneur, developer, state cheerleader and foodie, was surprised one day early last week when he read that Alleva Dairy, the oldest cheese shop in Little Italy in New York City, was getting ready to close its doors after 130 years of service.
Alleva Dairy, which had survived the Great Depression and two World Wars, had been done in by the economic slowdown caused by COVID.
Morris, the CEO of Edgewood Properties, among other ventures, didn’t want to see that happen — so, he made two calls.
The first was to Brian Trematore, the “T” in M&T Realty, a real estate firm they co-founded years ago. Morris wanted to see if they had commercial property that could handle the world-famous store and if Trematore was up for the challenge of saving the store. They did, and he was.
He then called Karen King, who had bought Alleva Dairy in 2014.
Morris just called her on the phone.
“She was surprised; I can tell you that,” a spokesperson for Morris said. “But that’s what happened, Jack just called her up and asked if she wanted to move the store to New Jersey. And, of course, she did. It was as simple as that.”
Morris and Trematore did not want to discuss the situation publicly, but their spokesperson picked up the details from there.
King toured a few locations that were available in North Jersey, eventually settling on an approximately 4,000-square-foot location at 9 Polito Ave. In Lyndhurst — just down from Medieval Times.
She signed a lease with M&T Realty, which will now spend the next few months getting the spot up to speed — preparing it to pass the various inspections that are needed.
The hope is that the New Jersey version of Alleva Dairy will open in the summer.
While the store — which had been located at 188 Grand St. — is changing states, a few pieces of its history are literally coming with it to Jersey, the spokesperson said.
For one, the iconic red-and-green storefront sign. That was taken off the storefront before it closed for good and will be incorporated into the new location.
And then, there’s the steam-fired mozzarella machine that hadn’t been used in the Little Italy location for some time — due to the fact that New York City no longer pumps steam through the pipes.
Morris and Trematore are aiming to get that up and running again, too. The pair is committed to making the cheese shop better than ever.
It’s a uniquely Jersey story.
For all the efforts the state makes to attract businesses to come to New Jersey, sometimes it just takes a story, a phone call — and an eagerness to help.
For Morris, a self-made man, it’s all about paying it forward: “I’m in the position to help people — and I like to help people,” he often has said.
The spokesperson put it this way:
“They’re doing it because they like small business owners, they like the state of New Jersey — and they like cheese,” he said with a laugh. “That’s why a world-famous cheese shop is coming to New Jersey.”