Jacob Hadjigeorgis spoke at a fundraiser this week for people displaced by a fire above Jacob’s Pickles.

By Krista Carter

Friends, family and foodies flocked to Maison Pickle Wednesday night for a charity event supporting the displaced families of 509-511 Amsterdam. The four-alarm blaze which broke out just two months back has left the lives of its tenants and community completely thrown.

Jacob Hadjigeorgis said that he was shaken by the fire, and inspired to do something.

“It was an experience that I didn’t immediately know how to react to… I remember families fleeing the building with garbage bags of their possessions. At that moment I knew something had to be done.”

So dinner was cut short. #jacobspickles #nyc #fire

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Citing Jacob’s Pickles as a “hub for the community” Hadjigeorgis and team gathered “die-hard Pickles fans” for a night of refined revelry where patrons could eat (French dips), drink (signature cocktails) and be merry (very). While The Rag encountered city slickers from the neighborhood itself, there was representation from the outer boroughs, as well. Prep for Prep alumni Ricardo Antoine (of the Bronx) and Senait Debesu (of Queens) “have been going to Jacob’s Pickles since the beginning.” When asked how they heard about the event and what brought them there, Antoine simply stated, “Jacob.” After having frequented the beloved brunch spot, Antoine recalled how local celebrity Jacob remembered him, a local.

As The Rag journeyed on into the night mixing and mingling with the lively crowd, it became apparent that Antoine’s story was not unique. The Upper Breast Side owner, Felina Rakowski, described how JP’s temporary shuttering was “[l]ike a candle went out. It’s changed the whole vibrancy of the block. It’s so quiet, so dark.” Rakowski is “looking forward to the light shining again” (and eating better, no doubt). GM Anastasia Trinh, who’s been with the Pickles team for over two years, reassuringly said that “[t]here were always plans to reopen. We are tied to the community.” And while the prospective date is still TBD, Trinh adds “we’re hoping by summer.” Certain factors, such as: the approval of the DOH and DOB, as well as renovations to the apartments above the restaurant, will play into when Pickles can pick up where it left off.

So what are JP employees doing in the meantime? Well, Maison Pickle is now offering brunch service (previously it was dinner only) in order to retain some staff. But it hasn’t been easy. Hadjigeorgis admits that after the fire, he thought the business would be “up and running in a couple of days.” His wishful thinking was handed a reality check once he assessed the full damage. The fire left 19 families without a place to call home. City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal spoke briefly of those tenants and their rights, acknowledging that “half of the displaced lived in rent-regulated homes. And while the building owner could “make it difficult to return,” rights have been honored “so far.”

We profiled one of the families here, and wrote about the heroic efforts of employees of e’s Bar next to Jacob’s here.

While the future of those affected by the fire is uncertain, what is certain is the strength of this community to come together for its neighbors in need. In between noshing and nomming, fundraiser attendees were silently bidding on auction items ranging from custom fashion bags to Colbert Show tickets. The overwhelming turnout translated into success: over 10K has been raised, exceeding the charity’s goal. There’s no doubt that Jacob’s is an Upper West Side institution, but as the Pickles proprietor so powerfully put, “tonight people are greater than the building itself.”

How to help:


Jacob’s Digs

Event photos by Krista Carter.

NEWS | 1 comment | permalink
    1. Jacob and his staff are to be congratulated for their outreach and work in the community.