LITTLE ITALY, Manhattan (WABC) -- A business in Little Italy, claiming to be the oldest cheese shop in the country, is struggling to survive the pandemic despite a history of overcoming monumental challenges.
Alleva Dairy sits on the corner of Mulberry and Grand in the heart of Little Italy.
It's hailed as the oldest cheese shop in the country. They have been making homemade Italian cheeses since 1892.
They survived the depression. But it remains to be seen if they can survive COVID.
"If Alleva Dairy closes, it is the cornerstone of what Little Italy is. And the tradition and culture. If we leave, there's another part of history going south," Alleva Dairy owner Karen King said.
When tourism came to a screeching halt two years ago, owner Karen King continued to keep her cheese shop open. And she started selling gourmet meals to go to New Yorkers shuttered at home.
"Everyone wants to take our meatballs home. We make great meatballs," King said.
And they now sell homemade gelato and homemade cannoli's outside.
They've even expanded beyond cheese. They're not scared of hard work to try and stay alive, but the owner tells Eyewitness News reporter Lucy Yang that she needs some help and some mercy from the landlord.
Rent is more than $23,000 a month. King owes two years worth of back rent. That's more than $500,000.
Her small business loan came in recently for half that amount. But she says the landlord is insisting on all the money up front which King doesn't have.
"There's been so many tears. There's been days I would hide under my covers thinking I can't do this," she said. "Then I'd get up and fight. I'd be stronger. I'd be stronger."
As New York reopens, the owner is confident she can eventually pay the rest of her back rent.
The question is: will a judge give her time or will Alleva Dairy's 130-year history come to a bitter end.
"I need a little help. I need a little help," King said.
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