GOURMET GARAGE IS ON THE MOVE

NEW YORK -- Gourmet Garage, a wholesale and retail format that made its debut here in late 1992 with a store in the trendy SoHo district, has been on the move.In the last several months, the company, which supplies some of New York's best-known restaurants, closed one location, relocated its headquarters, and is now in negotiations for at least two spaces in Manhattan.In June, Metropolitan Agribusiness,

NEW YORK -- Gourmet Garage, a wholesale and retail format that made its debut here in late 1992 with a store in the trendy SoHo district, has been on the move.

In the last several months, the company, which supplies some of New York's best-known restaurants, closed one location, relocated its headquarters, and is now in negotiations for at least two spaces in Manhattan.

In June, Metropolitan Agribusiness, which operates Gourmet Garage, moved out of its second location, on New York's Upper East Side. The warehouse, located in a former vinegar factory, was a joint venture between Gourmet Garage and Eli Zabar, restaurateur and bread maker. Like the first Gourmet Garage, it was open to the public part of the day with some hours reserved just for the restaurant trade.

"There were two captains on the ship, and it just wasn't good," Gourmet Garage cofounder John Gottfried said of the well-publicized split with Zabar, which was partly attributed to personality clashes between Zabar and Metropolitan president Andrew Arons. SN profiled this Gourmet Garage operation in the issue of April 11, 1994. The two companies continue to supply each other, Gottfried said. Last month, Gourmet Garage moved from its original location to a larger SoHo warehouse at 453 Broome St. near Mercer Street to accommodate the vast number of shoppers drawn to the store's specialty produce, cheeses and pasta at discount prices.

With more space for a larger inventory, sales shot up 25% at the new site, Gottfried said. Further increases are expected once Gourmet Garage modifies its inventory by weeding out duplication and focusing more on organic products.

Gottfried said Gourmet Garage wants to supply more organic products, because East Coast retailers and consumers don't have much access to such products. "Organic has been terribly neglected," he said.

Gourmet Garage is also looking to open at least two more locations soon, Gottfried said. Negotiations are under way for spaces in New York's Upper East and Upper West Side.