Changing face of Syracuse's Little Italy

Influx of African Immigrants to North side of Syracuse:

New Gear and Lombardi's Fruits and Imports represent the new and old, the hopes and ambitions, failures and frustrations of an entire community in the midst of change brought about by past and recent immigration.

New Gear is a clothing store specializing in contemporary fashions. Its customers tend to be young adults and they have plenty to choose from. New Gear stocks the kind of baggy jeans and oversize T-shirts favored by aficionados of the new urban contemporary fashions. A Sudanese immigrant who refers to himself as Isaac helps run the store. The owner, Ali, an Arab, has another store on Burnet Avenue, and leaves Isaac in charge when he is not at the store.

"Business is good. I can't complain," Isaac said

Lombardi Fruits and Imports offers a wide variety of merchandise, ranging from fresh produce to specialty oils and sauces, imported cheeses, cold cuts and pasta items to homemade sausages to gift items. In business for several decades, and has something of a dedicated customer base consisting mostly of Italian-Americans who live in the immediate vicinity. It also attracts customers from the suburbs, as well as other cities in the surrounding environs such as Utica, Cortland, Watertown and Binghamton.

"We have the biggest selection of sauces in Central New York," Dominic Lombardi said. He is co-owner, with his brother John Lombardi, and helps to manage the store begun by his father 40 years ago.

These two businesses are located on Butternut Street. Typical of most neighborhood streets in Syracuse, Butternut Street is flanked on both sides by the usual mom and pop neighborhood stores, bars and restaurants, and a variety of franchises that have become popular in shopping areas in most neighborhoods. These include a Save A Lot grocery, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Subway, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, J-reck Subs and facing each other, separated by Butternut Street, two Rite Aid pharmacies.

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