Dyker Heights

3 Guys From Brooklyn, the other Brooklyn grocer with cult status

Eye On Real Estate

July 15, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Night And Day You Are The One (as the Cole Porter song says): Dyker Heights grocery shop 3 Guys From Brooklyn is open all night. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
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Food, Glorious Food.

Whole Foods isn’t the only B’KLYN grocer with cult status.

In the southwest section of the borough — where the Whole Foods that hit Gowanus in late 2013 is too far away to be a convenient shopping spot — 3 Guys From Brooklyn is the grocer people talk about.

It is an outdoor produce market combined with an indoor store full of gourmet goodies from fresh quail eggs to kosher cookies.

It is known for its low prices and high quality — its 1970s originator, the late Stanley Zimmerman, called his business “the Poor People’s Friend” back in the day.

The store is on the corner of Fort Hamilton Parkway and 65th Street in Dyker Heights, right on the edge of Borough Park.

At night, 3 Guys From Brooklyn glows like a beacon, no matter how late the hour. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you yearn for fresh pineapple or a perfect papaya at 3 a.m., this is the place to go in this part of the borough.

Its roots date back to 1975, when Stanley Zimmerman opened a fruit store at this site at 6502 Fort Hamilton Parkway. His brother and brother-in-law were the other two guys in the original 3 Guys from Brooklyn.

In 1998, a new trio of guys, namely his sons Scott and Howard and their friend Philip C. Penta, re-opened 3 Guys from Brooklyn at the same location. Sadly, Howard Zimmerman died in a motorcycle accident in 2003.


Hami melons, Sicilian eggplant and 59-Cent Romaine

For the longest time, people have been buttonholing us to enthuse about 3 Guys From Brooklyn. Finally, we went shopping there on a recent Sunday without telling the store owners we were headed their way.

We found a foodies’ fantasy land stocked with 100-plus varieties of nicely-priced fruits and vegetables. The selection is fit for sophisticated eaters, yet the place is refreshingly unpretentious.

The shoppers we mingled with spoke English, Chinese, Spanish, Russian and a couple other languages we couldn’t figure out without excessive eavesdropping. It was an amiable crowd, sharing the enjoyment of buying beautiful food.

Among our interesting finds was the Hami melon (priced at $1.29 per pound), which is oblong in shape and originates in the Xinjiang region of Northwest China. The array of peaches and apricots included donut peaches ($2.99 per pound), which look flattened out, with the dimensions of a donut but no hole in the middle.

Who knew cherries are white as well as black? There was a side-by side display of Sno-White cherries, with pale yellow and rose skins, next to black Bing cherries (both $4.99 a pound).     

There was Sicilian eggplant, which we’ve never seen before ($1.29 per pound), in addition to Black Beauty eggplant (49 cents a pound). There were massive, meaty-looking Portobello mushrooms ($3.99 per pound), a mainstay for accomplished cooks.

By the way, staples such as apples, lettuce and tomatoes were pretty, and priced right. The McIntoshes were 79 cents a pound and the Romaine was 59 cents per bunch. The beefsteak tomatoes were $1.79 a pound. We tried them; they were very tasty.

One stand-out in the dairy case was hand-wrapped fresh mozzarella ($4.99 per pound) from Lioni, a cheese-maker with a warehouse on nearby 15th Avenue. A fine find on the shop shelves was Tantillo tomato basil sauce ($1.50 per bottle). The company that makes it is headed by Sicilian-born produce maven Tony Tantillo, who appears on WCBS Channel 2 News.

Both tasted terrific. 

The shopkeepers own the building

We love real estate even more than food. So of course, before shopping, we looked up 6502 Hamilton Parkway on the city Finance Department’s website.

According to property records, the store owners bought the low-rise commercial building plus companion building 6506 Fort Hamilton Parkway through Penzim Realty LLC for a combined $2.25 million in 2004. Philip Penta’s name is in the Real Property Transfer Report.

‘I am the new Guy’

After visiting 3 Guys From Brooklyn, we talked to Phil Penta, who is Philip’s son.

Phil became a partner in the business five years ago. “I am the new Guy,” he explained.

The merchants’ strategy goes beyond offering produce at low prices, he emphasized. “We try to give people real value for their dollar,” he said.

They own a single store, not a multinational chain that can command favorable terms from suppliers on sheer size alone. So how does all this work? we wondered.

“We do have significant buying power,” Penta said.  “We’ve been doing this a long time.

“We have the expertise, we have the relationships, we have the know-how to do it well.”

A rebranding campaign he spearheaded three years ago “is really working well,” he noted. “There’s a lot of customer engagement.”

This marketing effort included a new logo, new store awnings and a new loyalty program that gives customers a $10 store credit for every 500 points they earn. There’s a new website. There are photo-posting contests on Instagram.  

The customer base comes from Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Borough Park. People who have moved out of the area come back to shop at 3 Guys From Brooklyn when they visit their old neighborhoods.

So who are the late-night shoppers? we asked.

Some are cab drivers who come in at 1 or 2 a.m. after their shifts end, he said. And when summer is sultry, some families shop at night since temps are cooler.

Late-nighters are more apt to show up on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Closing during the overnight hours wouldn’t be practical because there are so many outdoor display bins, he explained. And workers need to be at the store anyway, because delivery trucks come then.

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