It closed before Hurricane Irma. But Epicure Market won’t be back… ever

Epicure Gourmet Market & Cafe, a South Beach institution dating to 1945, has closed for good.

The market posted the news on Twitter, and owner Jason Starkman confirmed he would close it amid a confluence of events, from losing all their perishables after the hurricane to years of down sales and a rash of interest from real estate developers who want to sublease.

“It’s prime real estate,” Starkman said of the Alton Road site. “The business itself doesn’t make sense to run. It’s just not making money.”

Starkman said sales have been slumping in the last five to seven years after he bought the market in 1998. He pointed to the yearlong closure of Alton Road and the downturn of the economy in 2008. Plus, the market now has competition from two nearby Publix stores, a Fresh Market and a Whole Foods Market. The Whole Foods will expand, and a Trader Joe’s is planned nearby.

The late Eddie Thal founded the market with one of his brothers, Leonard, in 1945 after taking over a butcher shop the Army Air Corps had commandeered during World War II. Epicure became a hit with locals and the famous, simply by making family-friendly prepared food and flying in specialty items from every state.

 At its height, the restaurant was cooking 10,000 gallons of chicken soup a week, preparing 100,000 pieces of gefilte fish, butchering 40,000 pounds of meat and making more than 60 kinds of prepared foods for those too lazy or too unwilling to cook — or simply for those who knew their fettuccine with ham salad, tuna salad or potato latkes would never measure up.

They had a deft touch for all manner of cuisine, from arroz con pollo to Irish stew, and they were renowned for their Black-Out Cake (dark chocolate cake, filled with dark chocolate pudding, frosted with dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa).

Celebrities who came to town genuflected at its door, particularly because Eddie Thal would send a gift basket to their hotel rooms with a gift card they could use only there.

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