Photo by Mark Liflander Photography
Alberta and Hassan Jarane bring great tastes to Tarrytown through Mint Premium Foods and Pik Nik BBQ, two locally beloved businesses.
On Main Street in Tarrytown, among the antiques shops, eateries, and other small businesses, there are two places you should know — that is, if you don’t already: Mint Premium Foods and Pik Nik BBQ. The former is a unique gourmet market and restaurant hybrid that woos customers time and again with elegant menu options. The latter is, simply put, a BBQ-lover’s dream. Both of these Tarrytown staples are owned by Hassan and Alberta Jarane. They’re a husband-wife team that has proved they have great taste and an equally great business sense. Together, they’ve helped breathe new life into Main Street and started a formidable family legacy at the same time.
Though you would probably never guess it from their current success, the Jaranes didn’t set out to be restaurateurs. Hassan, who hails from Casablanca, Morocco, was a fashion photographer before opening Mint, and Alberta had a successful career in brand strategy and design. The Jaranes moved to Sleepy Hollow from Brooklyn in 1999, and, not too long after, Hassan decided it was time for a career change. He wanted to open a gourmet cheese shop, and just like that, Mint Premium Foods came to be.
At its 2003 opening, at 18 Main Street, Mint was a small shop with the air of a North African market where visitors could find flavorful cheeses, charcuterie, and the like. A first of its kind in the riverfront community, Mint was instantly welcomed into the Tarrytown neighborhood. “When we opened, people tapped in really early and realized that there was something special going on,” Alberta recalls. “There was a line outside the door on the first day.”
Mint Premium Foods continued to cultivate a loyal customer base. The store drew people in from Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn, other Westchester towns, and beyond, all while helping to invigorate Main Street. After a successful run, the Jaranes felt it was time to expand, so Mint moved into a new location in 2011. Though it was just across the street from the original, the new shop meant another opportunity to bring something fresh to the downtown village area. The Jaranes were able to fully renovate the space while creating the aesthetic they had envisioned. The new (and current) location would be at 19 Main Street, in the building that Hassan and Alberta now own. Today, almost 20 years after the doors first opened, Mint Premium Foods is a delightful two-in-one stop — part gourmet market, part restaurant — that people can’t seem to patronize enough. In 2021, Mint received the Michelin Plate designation, becoming a part of the Michelin Guide New York for its high-quality food and flavors.
It was in April of 2016 that the Jaranes opened their second restaurant, Pik Nik BBQ, one block down from Mint. Pik Nik, too, soon became a neighborhood favorite. With mouthwatering menu items such as Prime beef brisket, Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis ribs and free-range chicken prepared either smoked, jerk, or fried, Pik Nik easily wins over its customers. While the jump from gourmet market to barbecue foods may seem a bit unexpected, the Jaranes’ second business was inspired by a worldwide appreciation for smoked meats and a recognition that there was no good BBQ in the area. In their own words: “Barbecue is a universal language.” Not surprisingly, Pik Nik BBQ was extraordinarily successful after its opening at 45 Main Street. The new restaurant was so successful that Alberta decided to sell her shares of the design agency she partly owned and walk away from her career in brand strategy and design in order to help run what had now become an expanding family business.
The Jaranes’ businesses began to change the look and feel of Tarrytown’s Main Street, with their large front windows, new flavors, and fully renovated interiors. As is to be expected whenever progress is being made, moments of resistance popped up along the way. Not everyone was happy to see a young entrepreneurial couple, especially a couple of color, bringing new ideas to the neighborhood. Luckily, there wouldn’t be many who went out of their way to express a preference for the way things were. “More often than not, the neighborhood was very welcoming, but it did take some barrier breaking,” Alberta admits. In situations that were not so equitable, the Jaranes were able to overcome resistance “by fighting for what [they] knew was right and fair,” even all the way to the courthouse in some cases. Of their victories over anyone who may have taken action to stand in their way, Alberta says they were happy to find that “Tarrytown is a place where when there’s social injustice, you can stand up and fight; there’s a good chance you’ll be heard, and there’s a good chance you’ll win.”
“Tarrytown is a place where when there’s social injustice, you can stand up and fight; there’s a good chance you’ll be heard, and there’s a good chance you’ll win.”
Despite individuals who may have openly been against the Jaranes’ presence among the neighborhood stores and shops, there is undoubtedly a community here that stands behind these business owners. For example, when a large Back the Blue procession and rally in September 2020 drew people to town who had the potential to be hostile or even violent toward the Jaranes and their support of the Black Lives Matter movement (following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor), a mix of customers, neighbors, and friends stood with the Jaranes in support of the movement. Together, they made a statement by turning their backs on rally-goers and their message.
Along with adding to the diversity of Main Street and effectively helping to change the atmosphere of the neighborhood overall, the Jaranes are intentional about promoting diversity and equity within the walls of their businesses. The staffs at Mint Premium Foods and Pik Nik BBQ are mostly Brown and Black. “We’re a proud employer of people of color,” Alberta says. “We’re creating opportunities for people of color to get into the business world and build themselves up.” The Jaranes also make it a point to give young employees an opportunity. While young people can often be passed over in the employment market, often due to either lack of experience or an employer’s lack of confidence in their commitment, they are the “lifeblood” of a community in the Jaranes’ eyes. That’s why they hire many students from local high schools and area colleges. They then take the time to train their younger staff members so that they’re able to meet the high expectations of the business and its many customers. That’s how they invest in the future.
Among those young employees is the Jaranes’ oldest son, Khalil, who currently works as a manager at Pik Nik. “Entrepreneurship requires a lot financially, emotionally, and strategically. You have to protect your vision constantly, and you have to teach your children,” Alberta shares. “That part is important to us because, as people of color, it’s not just about doing well; it’s about passing it on, as well.” But the Jaranes won’t just be passing on a business, should their sons choose to take over one day — they’ll also be passing on an incredible work ethic. Just because it’s the family business doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. “We’re tough on all the young people, but I think Hassan is toughest on Khalil,” Alberta says with a laugh.
In the end, outside of running multiple businesses, organizing community protests, serving on the Tarrytown District Equity Committee, and planning new ventures, it’s the family part that the Jaranes are most proud of. “I would say our biggest success is the teamwork my husband and I share,” says Alberta. “We’ve been married for 35 years, and together we built something we’re proud of, and we did it our way. We’re the proud parents of Khalil and Miles; we’re healthy, and we love each other. Everything else is just stuff.”