After 25 Years, Sassos Step Aside At Stuart’s Seafood

Longtime owners of Stuart's Seafood Market, Charlotte and Bruce Sasso, right, with new owner Rashid Sulehri, second from left, and manager Farid Sindhu. Kyril Bromley photo

After 25 years behind the counter of Stuart’s Seafood in Amagansett, Charlotte and Bruce Sasso have sold the venerable seafood store tucked into a residential backyard in Amagansett to the owner of Villa Italian Specialties and the Montauk Bake Shoppe.

“We are proud of Stuart’s history and proud of where we have taken it, but it is time for us to step away and enjoy where were live,” Ms. Sasso said on Friday. “I want to actually go to the beach for an entire day, not just a 10 minute brain reset before work. We want to take out the kayak that has been in our basement for 20 years.”

The couple purchased Stuart’s in 1996, the fourth owners of the business, which was started in 1951 by the Vorpahl family in a shed behind their house. By the time they handed over the keys earlier this year to new owner Rashid Sulehri, the Sassos had owned it longer than even the Vorpahls did.

As word has spread, the couple said they’ve been asked over and over where they will be moving to — Florida being the most common suggestion. They will be going nowhere, the Sassos said —other than a long dreamed of fishing trip to Alaska for Mr. Sasso.

“It’s my first bucket list trip,” Mr. Sasso said. “I used to do a lot of fishing, before I got into the fish business. I have a boat — it’s been underneath a tree for seven years and my surfcasting gear hasn’t been out of the cellar in 15 years.”

Ms. Sasso says that she plans to pick her own vegetables at Quail Hill Farm this summer, is working on plans to host a television show on LTV when the studios reopen, is planning a combination college visit and baseball stadium tour with their youngest son, and will spend the rest of her time “deciding what I want to do when I grow up.”

The Sassos have lived a life in seafood. They met through fish: when she was working a summer waitress job at Gosman’s Dock restaurant in Montauk and Mr. Sasso was peddling oysters and clams. Mr. Sasso, a Massachusetts native, started selling seafood when cell phones were the “size of a suitcase” and still has some of his original customers on Stuart’s client list.

Mr. Sulehri has made a business model out of taking over well-established local business and changing very little. He purchased Villa Italian Specialties in East Hampton in 2015, the Montauk Bake Shoppe in 2017 and the Beach Bakery & Grand Cafe in Westhampton Beach in 2019.

And Stuart’s looks to be on the same path. Ms. Sasso said that most of the shop’s longtime staff will remain behind the chilled glass cases filled with fish and working the fillet tables, as will her prepared foods recipes, where they will be joined by baked goods from Montauk Bake Shoppe and fresh mozzarella from Villa.

“He’s a very nice man, very down to earth and customer friendly,” Ms. Sasso said. “They have a great team.”

The Sassos are not quite fully retired yet. They are helping Mr. Sulehri and his crew get up to speed on running the shop, so you still might catch them there from time to time. You will not, however, catch Niko and Nitro.

“We know everyone will miss the dogs — it’s taken them a while to get used to not going to the shop every morning,” Ms. Sasso said. “We will not miss the long hours, but we’ll miss the people. We had such great relationships with our ‘family’ there. But we’ll still see everybody. We’ll be there. We’ll just be on the other side of the counter.”