A small postwar fruit stand that grew into a venerable Silicon Valley gourmet food landmark is closing its doors after 63 years.
Cosentino's Market on South Bascom Avenue will stop selling orange cauliflower, flaky fried chicken and high-end specialty items Feb. 8, sending the three Cosentino brothers into retirement, their roughly 70-plus employees looking for work and loyal customers lamenting the loss of a part of their lives.
"It's like a death," said Janet Grewer of San Jose, who lives across the street and has been shopping at the family-owned market for 50 years.
Friday, Grewer bumped into two strangers, also women who have shopped there for five decades, to commiserate the loss of a store known for its fresh produce, eclectic European cookies and fresh meat. None was assuaged by the fact that a new high-end grocery store will take Cosentino's place.
"What can replace this?" asked Rene Durie of San Jose, dabbing the tears from her eyes. "It won't be a Cosentino's."
The upcoming closing of the store follows on the heels of PW Market's fate, which proudly touted "serving Santa Clara Valley since 1943" until it too closed its San Jose doors in October. A few years back, Cosentino's had closed its two other locations, in the Silver Creek area of San Jose and in Santa Clara.
"This wasn't easy," said the youngest brother, 71-year-old Dominic Cosentino. "It was just time."
News of Cosentino's closure circulated Friday, after employees were told on Wednesday that they would soon be out of a job. "It is devastating," said one employee.
"I love it here," said Diana Roucoux, a customer who was squeezing mangoes stacked in a neat pyramid. "But it must be a tough business."
The 32,000-square-foot store, along with a total of 4.2 acres of property at the corner of Curtner and Union avenues, was purchased for a land value of more than $10 million by JP DiNapoli Cos. Inc., a real estate investment, development and property management institution in San Jose, according to David Taxin, partner with Meacham Oppenheimer, who brokered the deal for both parties. He did not disclose how much the company paid specifically for the market.
However, Taxin promised a new "high-end, organic, yuppie-type" grocery will move in to Cosentino's, though he wasn't specific. (One of the Cosentino brothers said he heard they were "courting a Southern California chain.") Even Taxin noted this was the biggest "tear-jerker to the community" he's ever worked on.
"It's been extremely emotional for the family," Taxin said. "Everybody shopped there. They were way ahead of their time. The family was even having a bit of seller's remorse, for their employees mostly."
Several years ago, the Cosentino brothers began mapping out a plan to sell a brand name that's been in their family since 1948, started by their father, Dominic Sr., who moved to California from Ohio.
Almost a dozen other Cosentinos still work at a store that beautifully displays locally grown vegetables, an on-site sushi station and lightly battered fried chicken that's been known to attract lines that snake around the deli counter.
Sadlly for his fans, 80-year-old Phil Cosentino (aka "Mr. Produce") is also ending his weekly "Produce Report" with KLIV radio. The trio's other brother, Sal, died several years ago.
When asked whether any of the younger Cosentino generation wanted to keep the operation going, the second eldest brother, 77-year-old Marino Cosentino, answered after a long pause: "No. Not enough."
Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-920-5002.