Sale set for Germantown market

GERMANTOWN—In real estate, as in baseball, it’s never over till it’s over.

That said, the closing on the sale of Otto’s Market, from Otto Leuschel to Noah Bernamoff, is set for Friday, June 30.

Rae and Noah Bernamoff cook together. Photo contributed

The market and Germantown Variety, also owned by Mr. Leuschel, were first offered for sale in the spring of 2015, for $995,000 each. The variety store property sold earlier this year; the last price listed, on the Patricia A. Hinkein Realty website, was $799,000. The Hinkein site lists the market as “Pending,” at $849,000.

Reached Monday in Washington State, where he now lives, Mr. Leuschel described the sale as a “happy ending.”

“I’m so happy about Noah,” he said.” He’ll take the store great places. I spent some time with him at the store in the beginning of June, and I can’t wait to visit later and see what he does.

“I love Germantown and the Hudson Valley,” Mr. Leuschel added, “but my life is here now.” In addition to working for Whole Foods, Mr. Leuschel looks after his mother, who is in her 80s.

Mr. Leuschel bought Central Market on Main Street in 2008 after working for Whole Foods for 17 years. He did a total renovation of the 2,500-square foot store, built as a market in 1927, and made Otto’s Market an award-winning business and the town’s hamlet a destination.

He opened Germantown Variety in 2012. That retail space has now been divided in two, with plans for a coffee bar and a woodworker’s shop.

Mr. Bernamoff, 34, is a Montreal native; according to published lore, he disliked law school and began curing meats in his apartment. He took a leave of absence and in 2010 he and his wife, Rae, opened the Mile End Deli, 19 seats in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, named for a Montreal neighborhood that is historically Jewish. They began with their grandmothers’ recipes and a staff of 12; soon lines wrapped around the block.

In 2012, they opened another tiny storefront, a sandwich shop in NoHo, Manhattan, and they published “The Mile End Cookbook,” called “a Jewish cookbook for all Americans.”

Today the enterprise also includes a catering and events company, and it employs almost 70 people. They smoke, dry cure, bake and pickle Jewish comfort foods entirely in-house with a focus on tradition and authenticity.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Mr. Bernamoff said they have also expanded into bagels and he is a partner in the Grand Army bar in Brooklyn.

The couple discovered Otto’s when they bought a house in Germantown from Ms. Hinkein a few months ago. They had previously rented in Ulster County, but in looking for a purchase, they “cast a wide net,” said Mr. Bernamoff. They know the owners of Gaskin’s restaurant in Germantown and they have friends in Hudson. They are part-time residents now, but their goal is “to transition to full-time,” he said.

They will still be involved in their New York City businesses, but “I’ve discovered over time that I can manage the moving parts of all those businesses from upstate,” said Mr. Bernamoff,

As for Otto’s Market, “I got into this business because I love food and the notion of community,” said Mr. Bernamoff, “not for the money or because my family was in the business. We opened our first restaurant eight years ago as a gathering space in a community that didn’t have one.

“Germantown has such a space with Otto’s,” he said. “You can always improve the product—that’s the easy part. The hard part is building the center where people gather, talk and spend some money

“Otto has done an incredible job of building that vibe. If he weren’t such a fine human being—moving back to Washington to be with his mother—he had thought he would die in the grocery store. I totally get where he’s coming from. I get that feeling of passion.

Mr. Bernamoff as he got to know Mr. Leuschel his sense of the project changed from a “cool opportunity” to a responsibility to “shepherd this business for next however-many years.”

For the “short term,” Mr. Bernamoff said he will learn as much as he can about the grocery business. He praised the current staff, adding, “The store is not changing imminently.”

He does plan mechanical upgrades that won’t require closing the store. When that process ends, he said, he plans to change the name back to Central Market.

Over the medium term, the couple would like to expand the prepared foods that’s sold without “making things feel like New York City. It will be uniquely Columbia County, and Germantown.”

Following up on his notion of community, Mr. Bernamoff is considering more comfortable seating, which might reduce the breadth of grocery items. He does want to buy from farmers.

Ultimately, “we want Otto’s to be a one-stop shop—produce, butcher, quick coffee, baked goods, sandwich, or a supper of meatloaf, a vegetable and a slice of pie. Simple but super delicious.”

He called the proposal for diner on Route 9G “wonderful,” saying, “There are now 12 restaurants in Boerum Hill and all of them do well…. Competition is good, and good for everybody.”

“I understand people’s reservations because we are a stereotype,” he said, “but we have fundamentally good intentions and we’re moving upstate to grow our family.” The couple has no children now. “That’s the next step,” said Mr. Bernamoff.

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