End of an Era – “Ruby the Fruit Man” Has Closed Shop

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The doors have been closed at Ruby’s fruit and vegetable stand at 400 Grand St. for over three weeks and the word on the street is that Ruby Baumgarten has finally retired.  There had been some community concern over his health, but local business owner James Iglesias says he has heard Ruby is doing fine, just decided to close shop as he is approaching 90 years of age.

James, whose dry-cleaning business has been across the street for almost thirty years, said, “I could always hear him yelling over there, talking to people. But then I realized he’s getting up there, him and his friends were just hard of hearing.”

Former New York Times food writer Mimi Sheraton wrote this about Ruby’s in 1997:

Multicultural is also the word for eating habits here. Ruby (the Fruitman) Baumgarten has catered to a primarily Jewish clientele for 50 years, always stocking greens and root vegetables for chicken soup. Now he also keeps fresh ginger root for new Chinese customers. Savvy shoppers are regularly and loudly berated for squeezing produce, but he takes pride in never stocking anything that is too expensive for his customers. ”If they’re not going to buy cherries, why should I buy cherries?” he asks rhetorically.

As reported by a local neighborhood website, Kicking Over the Traces, Ruby’s location at 400 Grand Street is “one of the few old buildings remaining in the Seward Park Extension Renewal Area –  and was the last building to enter the City’s Tenant Interim Lease Program (TIL). The program allowed residents in City-owned buildings to take ownership of their buildings as a cooperative. LES activist Chino Garcia added that one of the organizers who led the fight to save this building was former City Councilwoman and current NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez”.

You’ll be missed, Ruby.