Goodbye, Spicy Scents

The conglomeration of buildings at 29-31 Leonard and 198 W. Broadway has been put on the market as a 29,478-square-foot residential conversion. The good news is that this does not include Square Diner (although any purchaser would be rather incentivized to make the restaurant an offer). The bad news is that the listing, which was forwarded to me but isn’t online, says the properties can be delivered vacant. And that means the Transit Trading Corporation, and the wonderful spicy scents that emanate from it, would likely be leaving the neighborhood. The buildings are in the Tribeca West Historic District, which makes tearing down the seven-story buildings at 29-31 Leonard a challenge. The single-story building at 198 W. Broadway, however, might be deemed expendable by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. (I’m not sure why 198 W. Broadway doesn’t have a Varick address—perhaps because it pre-dates the creation of that part of Varick?)

The photo below is courtesy Google Maps.

courtesy Google Maps



  1. What looks like Varick Street was extended to Leonard Street in 1918, but is actually called West Broadway. The addresses 1 and 2 Varick Street belong to buildings on the north side of Franklin Street.

    According to DOB records the 1-story building at 198 was built in 1932 (under new building application NB 54 of 1932) and used for “brake service testing”. It was listed as both 198 W. Broadway and (curiously) 198 Finn Square on CofO 18689.

    Per LPC: “This one-story, twenty-seven foot wide commercial building is located near the middle of the block between Leonard and Franklin Streets. Designed by Emil Guterman, a Brooklyn Heights architect, it was erected in 1932 for James Hopkins and served as the automobile repair shop of lessee William Pomerantz of Brooklyn.

    “This lot received its present configuration when Varick Street was extended southward, eliminating part of the block. Soon thereafter, in 1921, a three-story building used for storage and offices was erected. It was replaced in 1926 by a filling station, which in turn was replaced by the present building. All that remains of the structure’s original appearance is its footprint and stepped parapet. The current tenant is the Ideal Trading Company, importers and exporters of seeds, spices, and agricultural products. “

  2. The last one. What a pity. When I moved to this neighborhood, the smell of spices at Transit Trading blended with the smell of nuts roasting at Bazzini’s.

    • And Bell Bates (when it was on West Broadway) when they were repackaging spices into retail sizes would smell delicious or not so delicious, depending on what they had open at the time.

      • Miss Bell Bates (both old and new). The old was a remarkably cramped store that did, in fact, smell intriguing.

        The new location on Reade Street had much more floor space, and a modestly better selection of items I wanted. But they probably over expanded. Whole Foods was likely the competition that did them in.

        Willner Chemists on Broadway & Murray Street shrunk in size, then closed up completely. So there went the two major sources of vitamin & herbal supplements in this area of Tribeca.

    • Not to mention the smell of coffee beans roasting at Martinson! Ahh, those heady days!

  3. I started working in the area almost 27 years ago. I would take long walks at lunchtime every day – it was such an interesting area! But now, there’s no where to go and nothing to see. Very sad.

  4. The end of an era. The Tribeca of old- well, really the last vestiges of the old Washington Market- will be no more. I’ll miss the smells of Fenugreek and other “exotic” spices, the sight of seeds spilled onto the sidewalk only to be eaten by pigeons, or other scavengers… The wholesale food import & export business will be officially dead here, replaced by the coffee bar and double wide stroller. R. I. P.

  5. Whole foods put them all out of business, Bell Bates lost 40% of their business upon opening and gradually chipped away at their business until they were forced to close. Same for Bazzinni’s and Willners. Everyone in the hood flocked to Whole Foods and stopped supporting these small businesses that had helped make Tribeca what it used to be. I moved to the area in 1981 when it as mostly artists who had come down for large inexpensive space. . Bell Bates was on W Broadway, Bazzinni’s was a thriving business. (BTW you can find Bazzinni’s products on line)
    Now it is a wealthy person’s hood with who want a different kind of neighborhood. This is considered progress.

  6. Whole Foods did not put Bazzinni out of business. The company bought a candy company with a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania and they made the decision to move the nut processing to that location and convert the building into condos. The store was always a work in progress.

  7. Thanks for all these memories. Great reading. Huck’s Mom is correct. Bazzini is alive and well. They still have the peanut concession at Yankee games I believed and I buy their packaged nuts rall the time at a various food stores and but chocolates became their thing. As for smells, I will never forget when they still rotated their peanuts in the old Bazzini Bld and they came crashing down through a a giant contraption in the ceiling.