Andrew (Andy) Balducci — the man responsible for pioneering a now-popular specialty grocer model in New York — has died at 92.
Balducci and his father ran a 24/7 Greenwich Village fruit stand together called Balducci’s, and Balducci is credited with growing that stand into a much larger specialty food store that housed a fishmonger, a cheese display, a meat counter, and more all under one roof. The model spawned the likes of other specialty grocery stores like Dean & Deluca, Zabar’s, and Citarella.
Born in 1925 in Brooklyn and raised in Italy, Balducci served in the Navy and worked for years for his father-in-law’s stone, marble, and granite business. He took that white collar experience back to the fruit stand, moving it into a space on Sixth Avenue at Ninth Street in 1972 and adding gourmet items like charcuterie, fresh cheese, breads, pastries, and prepared foods. He was one of the first direct importers of prosciutto di Parma and is credited with introducing broccoli rabe to California farmers, racking up fans like James Beard.
Though others in the family at one point accused Balducci of stealing shares in the business, the consensus among family has been that he is the reason for the store’s success. Now, the company has 11 locations on the East Coast, though in more recent years, business dwindled in Manhattan with only an “on-the-go” store still open in Midtown West.
The family sold the company in 1999, and it has since changed hands a few times, with Sutton Place Gourmet purchasing the business, followed by Bear Stearns, Kings Food Market, Angelo Gordon & Co., and now KB Holding Inc.
Balducci is survived by his wife, two children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His grandson T.J. Murphy follows in his footsteps as CEO of Baldor Specialty Foods, the wholesale spinoff of Balducci’s also started by Balducci.