Bushwick section of Wyckoff Avenue continues to transform, and so do several local businesses. The admittedly sketchy neighborhood deli, El Rey de Wyckoff (162 Wyckoff Avenue) has undergone some serious renovations. The result is a sleeker, more modern space, similar to its distant neighbor and arguably the titan of this new grocer movement: Hana Natural (24 Wyckoff Avenue).
El Rey’s construction began a little over three weeks ago and is nearly finished except for the deli counter and grill. Renovations include the front register being moved to the left side of the store. There is a large open space in the middle stocked minimally with more grocery shelves. Refrigerated items — including their $9.99 6-pack Angry Orchard ciders (cheapest price on the block FYI) — now outline three quarters of its capacity.
Most noticeably different is the tile flooring and framed glass storefront which give some transparency to a space that previously had an inconspicuous entryway: welcoming LED lights now frame its entrance.
El Rey is one in a series of remodeled delis on Wyckoff Avenue and its new design mirrors neighboring competitors, Top City Gourmet (144 Wyckoff Avenue) and Marinello’s Gourmet Deli (114 Wyckoff Avenue). Top City is only two years old and Marinello’s was renovated around 4-5 years ago after being in the neighborhood for over a decade.
All three now carry the same aesthetic: pristine glass exterior, visible deli counter space and less storefront signage than un-remodeled stores. There is even a noticeable shift from “deli options” to “craft beers” advertisements.
With more online grocers servicing Bushwick and supermarkets like Associated and Food Bazaar upgrading their selections, I am sure El Rey’s owners felt the pressure. As a store, they offered the basics at good prices and their staff was always welcoming and friendly, but there was only so many times, I could wonder ‘When are they going to wash their floors’ or ‘Dust their shelves?’
These shortcomings were probably signs of a deteriorating space, but as a business in a neighborhood that’s constantly evolving, there’s more accountability than ever. Although when I asked a cashier at Marinello’s about El Rey’s new look, he shrugged indifferently, “They’re remodeling?”
This is exciting news for Bushwick: El Rey can start fresh with new millennial customers and longstanding locals, especially in their produce and grill selections, Top Gourmet and Marinello’s strengths, respectively. Visibility, which they strongly lacked beforehand is now at their forefront, both literally and figuratively.
With each renovation, we have seen these stores carve out a niche for themselves. Top Gourmet is a pocket-sized Dean and Deluca, offering six types of olive oil and BluePrint juice cleanses, and Marinello’s offers your quotidian grocery needs when a trip to Key Foods seems excessive. It will be interesting to see where El Rey finds itself.