Moving Parts: Brooklyn Furnishings Design at The Factory Floor

SMALL, MEDIUM, AND LARGE: Otherwise, it’s hard to categorize the ingenious designs of Brooklyn makers at The Factory Floor in Industry City in the recent two-weekend show. But starting small, Brooklyn Artisan will do our best, for the record.

Small batch, small scale, big thinking at bhold design: Product development under the eye of Susan Taing, founder, takes certain characteristics from the MakerBot desktop 3D printer used to produce prototypes in the bhold lab. Double-walled thermal saki cups, for instance, with little fingerholds on one side.

Using the MakerBot 3D desktop printer, b-hold can turn around and refine prototypes in a few hours that might take days in traditional development cycles.

Using the MakerBot 3D desktop printer, bhold labs can turn around and refine prototypes in a few hours that might take days in traditional development cycles. (Photo: Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool/dfs)

Or—our favorite, above—colorful little two-tone, two-piece objects that separate: the outer C-shape that hangs on the restaurant table and holds your bag or helmet by its handle or chin strap; and the inner part that emerges to wind and store your earbuds tangle free. You can work with the bhold labs on your own designs; contact susan@bholddesign.com. Or like us, you can just stand at a design show and play with the appealing objects fitting them together and taking them apart over and over again as minutes tick by. 

Founder/owner Mark Righter crafted sliding shelves that don't tip, thanks to the sliding dovetail joint.

Founder/owner Mark Righter crafted sliding shelves that don’t tip, thanks to the sliding dovetail joint. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool/ams)

Small detail, big advantage: Cambium Studio is a Brooklyn-based woodworking furniture and design company founded by Mark Righter. From its Greenpoint location, Cambium will create custom designs for clients, and on its website offers a portfolio of pieces of its own design.

Talking shop with a potential client, Cambium Studio's founder Mark Righter, with coffee, is next to his shelves with sliding dovetails. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool/ams)

Talking shop with a potential client, Cambium Studio’s founder Mark Righter, with coffee, is next to his shelves with sliding dovetails. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool/ams)

What caught our eye at The Factory Floor was deceptively simple but elegant shelving for display of favorite small objects—a place to put the candles, the Japanese vase, the framed photo—that can be adjusted as the array of objects changes. How?

The framework is hung from a secure cleat on the wall, but individual shelves operate on a sliding dovetail joint. The shelves, using bamboo, are beautiful finished and the sliding function gives you an excellent excuse to pat them and fiddle with them for the pleasure of touch.

Then there’s the MidCentury-looking coffee table with lift up hinged covers on its four storage compartments. Three of the covers are in a 60s’s orange and one is in bamboo strip laminate. Fittingly it is named Mod Quad by Wonk, its maker.

David Gotl lifts the four cubby covers of the streamlined coffee table,

David Gotl lifts the four cubby covers of the streamlined coffee table,

Other combinations of finishes to suit individual clients are possible, Wonk’s website says.  In fact, since each piece is custom-made for you, you are confronted with swatches and urged to pick from them. Takeaway notion? Wonk if you love finishes.

The laminate frame holds the cushions in place; upholstery fits cushions closely.

Pratt grad’s design: The laminate frame holds the cushions; upholstery fits cushions closely.

Change the color statement (or hide the pizza drippings) at will.

Change the color statement (or hide the pizza drippings) at will.

Along with others, Pratt Institute was a co-sponsor of the design show at The Factory Floor.  At the Pratt Industrial Design booth—Pratt Institute is, by the way, based in Brooklyn—Brooklyn Artisan was engaged by a very clean-lined yet comfortable loveseat. The foam cushions made it quite sittable. And as its Pratt graduate designer demonstrated, the cushions can be flipped to your choice of color contrasts.

More coverage from the recent Brooklyn design show at The Factory Floor in Industry City, Sunset Park, is to come in the next few days. For Brooklyn Artisan’s prior coverage, follow these links:

Overview by Bruce A. Campbell

Alexandra Ferguson: Done is Better

Sleeping on The Factory Floor

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Be an Operator, Not a Hustler…and Other Tips for Business Success

BUSINESS OWNERS SHANE WELCH, FOUNDER OF SIXPOINT BREWERY in Red Hook, Matthew Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread in Bed-Stuy and Charlie Sahadi, proprietor of Sahadi Importing Co. in Brooklyn Heights, showed their business scars and shared some hard-earned wisdom at a recent Brooklyn Public Library conversation, “Fantastic Food,” led by photographer Randy Duchaine, whose “Created in Brooklyn” exhibition of portraits inspired the series:

If the adjoining property comes up for sale, buy it.—Charlie Sahadi
Sahadi remembered this advice from his father when two buildings on Atlantic Avenue came up for sale in 1977 for what seemed, at the time, an impossibly astronomical price. “Owning your property is a very big plus. Landlords want to become your partner without doing the work. We scrimped and bought the buildings. Now when I look back at the price, of course, I feel as if we stole the property.”

“You have to innovate—adapt and change with the times,” says Charlie Sahadi (above). “Sahadi’s is an ingredients store, but then we opened a deli to show off what you can make with these ingredients.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

“You have to innovate—adapt and change with the times,” says Charlie Sahadi (above).
“Sahadi’s is an ingredients store, but then we opened a deli to show off what you can
make with all these ingredients.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

When a cohort of producers grows up in a neighborhood, that’s good. —Shane Welch
“We all root for each other. If there’s only one place in a neighborhood, it might be hard to get people to come to you. But now in Red Hook you have roving bands of food tourists who make a day of it and stop at three or four places.” (Similarly, Sahadi talked about Trader Joe’s opening up near his store, which far from being a competitive threat, is introducing a whole new set of customers to Sahadi’s, he says, and helping make “downtown Brooklyn a foodie paradise.”)

“We knew Brooklyn would grasp what we were doing with beer,” says Shane Welch, front, with his Sixpoint Brewery crew. “And the mineral profile of the water here is virtually perfect for brewing.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

“We knew Brooklyn would grasp what we were doing with beer,” says Shane Welch, front, with his Sixpoint Brewery crew. “And the mineral profile of the water here is virtually perfect for brewing.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do serious work.—Matt Tilden
“Be humble. Work hard, focus on community betterment and sharing knowledge. A brand is a living breathing thing; for us, it’s a statement about food.”

Make the transition from hustler to operator—a perspective Tilden remembers Welch sharing with him over dinner one night.
Welch explains: “Everyone starts out hard-scrabble, hustling. But as you and the business grow and mature, you legitimize. Operators figure out how to get things done the right way. It can be poisonous if you remain a hustler. Say you do building without permits and then someone gets hurt. That could be the end of your business.”

Matt Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread: “Brooklyn is approachable sophistication. It’s a family culture with an edge. I relate to raw and rustic.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

Matt Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread: “Brooklyn is approachable sophistication.
It’s a family culture with an edge. I relate to raw and rustic.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

Give people a good product, at a fair price, with good customer service.—Charlie Sahadi 
When Sahadi says, “Our customers become our friends,” you believe him if you’ve ever stepped inside his store. “Shopping with us has to be a pleasurable experience. We’re part of our customers’ lives. Otherwise, we’d just be another store on Atlantic Avenue.”

Can’t the City Make It Easier?

This is one they all could agree on. Regulations are one of the biggest threats to New York City small businesses, they said. You have to be on top of them, and there are hundreds of them—city, state, federal—and they seem to change almost hourly. Dept. of Agriculture, NYC Dept. of Health, Landmarks Preservation, Dept. of Buildings, the list goes on.

Yes, of course these owners value their customers’ safety and health. But can’t it be easier? A 2008 update to the NYC building code complicated everyone’s lives enormously, they report. Sahadi’s first planned a store renovation in 1999; they got all the approvals, but then decided to postpone construction when they bought a big warehouse in Sunset Park. By the time they were ready to build, the 2008 revision was in effect. “It drove us a little crazy to get all the right permitting,” says Sahadi, “especially since our buildings also come under the Landmark Preservation Commission.” He credits his son, Ron, and his daughter Christine with managing the project and getting it done.

A sole proprietor can find it overwhelming to manage the contracting, building and running back and forth to city offices for permitting while keeping the business going—not to mention staying on top of the regulatory changes. Shane Welch finds himself dealing with the Dept. of Homeland Security now, since the Tax and Trade Bureau, which governs the excise tax on beer, was swallowed up in it. Day-to-day, it’s a little like being nibbled to death by ducks. For instance, SCRATCHbread got a ticket recently because its benches were three feet further out than they were supposed to be—one of hundreds of details a business must keep track of. “Now don’t you think the inspector could simply have pointed it out?” Matt Tilden wondered. “I’d have been happy to move them.”

The “Created in Brooklyn” exhibit is on display at Brooklyn Public Library until August 31. The conversations continue in June and July, on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 pm: June 26, Design Crafts; July 10, Urban Adventures; July 17, Art & Music.

Start-ups Aren’t for Sissies

Created in Brooklyn: Food and Drink Entrepreneurs Talk Shop 
Sharing their business stories: from left, Matthew Tilden of SCRATCHbread, Shane Welch of Brooklyn Brewery and Charlie Sahadi of Sahadi's

Sharing their business stories: from left, Matthew Tilden of SCRATCHbread, Shane Welch
of Sixpoint Brewery and Charlie Sahadi of specialty food retailer Sahadi’s.

ANY BUDDING ARTISANS IN THE AUDIENCE at a recent Brooklyn Public Library panel, “Fantastic Food,” would come away both sobered and heartened. Three business owners—Shane Welch, founder of Sixpoint Brewery, Matthew Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread and Charlie Sahadi, proprietor of Sahadi Importing Co.—all shared disaster stories and cautionary tales but there they were, smiling happily about the businesses they ran, unanimous that they’d go through it all again in an instant.

The June 19th event was the first in a series of conversations the library has organized around an exhibition of portraits by photographer Randy Duchaine called “Created in Brooklyn,” which will be on display until August 31.

Photographer Randy Duchaine led the conversation.

Photographer Randy Duchaine, whose portraits inspired the conversation series.

Duchaine, who led the conversation, has evocatively captured dozens of Brooklyn makers and creators who “come here to live their dreams, express themselves, start a business and contribute to society through their talents,” as he puts it. “They represent…a sense of independence and the ability to stand on their own two feet and proudly say, ‘This is what it means to be an American in Brooklyn!’”

The lively interchange was followed—lucky us—by samples of the businesses’ artisanal breads, beers and Mediterranean appetizers. Here are some of the start-up war stories they shared:

Shane Welch, Sixpoint Brewery  “It’s hard to secure a commercial lease with no assets, no credit, no money. So we had to hard-scrabble it.” In 2004, he and a partner found an 800-square-foot garage to rent in Red Hook, not exactly ideal for a brewery and full of old equipment. “It was a junkyard really.” They cleaned it out and bought a couple of used tanks for a few hundred dollars at auction—one had been a dairy tank and another was rusted out. That one came with its own craft brew karma. It turned out it had been used originally by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in California and had probably literally worked its way to the East coast, being handed from hopeful brewer to brewer. “I have a background in chemistry so we made a solution that no living organism could survive. We emptied them, scrubbed them out, sanitized them, bleached them.”

Bright Side: Sixpoint just closed on the purchase of property next door and is establishing power cred in the red hot world of craft beer. It is on the brink of a big expansion, planning to build a new brewing facility to suit this time.

Charlie Sahadi, Sahadi Importing  “I was 23 when my father died suddenly. I’d been working in the business, but my father’s approach was, ‘Let me worry about the business, you take care of the customers.’ So when he died, I had no idea how to do certain things. ‘Where do we get the feta?’ I asked his partner. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘How about the olives?’ My father had been the dominant partner so all the details went with him.” Luckily, Sahadi was able to get in touch with a bookkeeper his father had used in the past, to come in and temp. She knew exactly where they bought the feta and a lot more besides, and her “temp” job has lasted 25 years.

Bright Side: Sahadi Importing has become an institution on Atlantic Avenue and is celebrating its 65th year in business. “You wake up and every day’s a challenge, but that’s what I love.” The store went through a recent renovation and expansion, overseen by his daughter Christine and son, Ron. Charlie Sahadi has justly earned the title of the Ambassador of Atlantic Avenue.

Matt Tilden, SCRATCHbread: “I was working as a chef 115 hours a week and wanted out. I kept thinking, I really don’t want to work somewhere where a pan gets thrown across the room because someone made a mistake. I answered an ad: ‘We have wood oven, you make bread’ and began moonlighting as a baker. I traded bread for rent; for a while I lived out of my car. Four years later, I wanted my own place. We raised a little money from selling at markets and Kickstarter. With no capital there are so many adjustments you have to make. You can’t always do things the way you would with proper funding. I got a friend to deposit money temporarily in my account so I could get approval for a lease. I staffed with interns, lots of interns.”

Bright Side: Everyone’s on payroll now. After doing a wholesale business with restaurateurs like the Union Square Hospitality Group of Danny Meyers, SCRATCHbread has refocused on its retail presence in Bed-Stuy. “We are all about being a conscious owner. Eating healthy is hard, I know that. When you put something in your body, it’s fuel. We like giving people good nourishment, caring for people. We play good music, focus on hospitality, something I’ve always admired about Danny Meyer.”

More, later, on some of the business tips they shared—and one thing they all agreed on. Plus a few of Randy Duchaine’s photographs.

Mark your calendar for the next conversations in Brooklyn Public Library’s “Created in Brooklyn” conversation series led by photographer Randy Duchaine. Held Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 pm in June and July: Design Crafts, June 26, Urban Adventures, July 10 and Art & Music, July 17.

Photographs by Basia Hellwig

Correction: An earlier version gave an incorrect date for the Design Crafts “Created in Brooklyn” event. It takes place on June 26.

Brooklyn Aerodrome: Taking to the Skies of North Brooklyn

Forget Area 51, this is North Brooklyn's mystery aircraft, built from Kit 145.

Forget Area 51, this is North Brooklyn’s mystery aircraft, built from Brooklyn Aerodrome’s Kit 145 ($250.).

BROOKLYN HARDLY SEEMS THE PLACE TO TAKE FLYING LESSONS, given the utter and complete dearth of airports in the borough. But that hasn’t stopped computer scientist Breck Baldwin and schoolteacher Andrew Woodbridge from starting the Brooklyn Aerodrome Flight School. It offers training, clocks hours of flight time and then issues pilot licenses – to middle-schoolers.

The program began in 2010 with 15 students. Most of the curriculum is online, and the textbook can be bought online for $30. In complete and utter contrast with No Child Left Behind, the law of the land in which students study for nothing but the exam, the new Brooklyn Aerodrome Flight School actually teaches real-world applications for science and technology in a context that interests these students: making and flying planes. Brooklyn Aerodrome showed at last fall’s World Maker Faire in Queens and got a lot of attention, including from Wired Magazine. But a failed Kickstarter campaign in the first quarter of this year was a setback. Despite that they’re still up and running; for more info go to brooklynaerodrome.com.

Okay, there’s no functional Brooklyn airport, which goes to say no full-size airplanes either. So the kids go to the other most logical site, Brooklyn’s own McCarren Park in Williamsburg, and fly their own easy-to-build model called Flack, for Flying Hack. “It’s an electric-powered remote-control airplane built out of recycled trash,” Baldwin says. “Kids can build one in three to four hours.”

“It’s about aeronautics, that’s the core of it,” says Baldwin. “But the whole thing is trying to get kids to think about math, science and engineering  and make it fun and play—not sit in a room and be lectured, but to go outside and do it.” In other words it’s not rote book learning, but real-world, hands-on knowledge and experience.

“Solving workbook math problems is not how the world works, but students might have to do a lot of math to get something to work,” Baldwin adds, the “something” being their airplanes.  The program is not ignoring the liberal arts either: the students write reports, too, technical ones, not a “My Favorite Superhero Is…” essay.

And what do the kids get out of it? Not only math and science (and lots of fun), but they learn how general aviation really works, along with its rules and regulations. That last part may not be glamorous but it is essential, Baldwin says: “It makes it more real, adds depth to it, but it also provides structure. You have to have permission to enter the ‘runway,’ then you have to get permission to take off, and then the next plane goes.

“There’s a lot of necessary structure to flying,” Baldwin says, before he pauses and adds, “Imagine 30 kids with powered airplanes.”

Executive Editor Phil Scott has clocked some air time himself, not only in airplanes but also a replica of a Wright Brothers glider at Kitty Hawk, N.C.,.

Cuzin’s Duzin Mini Donuts Aiming to Raise the Dough

Cuzins Duzins Mini DonutsBROOKLYNITE TODD JONES CALLS HIMSELF A “DONUTOLOGIST.” You know, just as archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann studied archaeology, namely the archaeology of ancient Troy, donutologist Jones studies donuts, namely sweet, sticky, delicious mini donuts, each a deep-fried doughy circle. Not Dunkin’ Donut donuts, or Starbucks donuts, but hot, fresh mini donuts. “Glaze will come out of my skin if you cut me,” he says.

He’s not only mini-donuts, either, but popcorn, cookies, custom drinks, etc., etc., etc. While you’re munching on one of his highly addictive donuts, then a second and then a third, you’ll have time to see that he’s one of the most upbeat characters you’ll ever meet. “That’s the only way to be—upbeat,” he tells me. Not too long ago he catered his first million-dollar wedding, put together by famed wedding planner Mindy Weiss at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She loved his donuts so much that she tweeted her 46,000 followers, he says. From that tweet he has two more affairs to cater, and he’s approaching Puffy. And maybe Oprah. Why not?

But at times his luck has bordered on hellish. He had a 12-year stint going in Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall until a developer sold the mall for $125 million. The developer took home $100 million and Jones was evicted immediately. He did some street festivals and catered a few weddings and bar mitzvahs until he was offered a place at Dekalb Market. He signed a contract for five years—“I knew it was temporary,” he says—and invested $30,000 in his shop. More developers arrived, and he was evicted again only a year and a half later —not long enough to recoup his investment. So he started working out of his bakery van again, and soon he was offered yet another location. But before he could move in, Superstorm Sandy hit, and the following Monday his van was stolen, along with $60,000 worth of equipment. Oh yeah: He had no insurance.

Sigh.

But now with his recent catering success, Jones is searching for another shop and he also wants to start franchises across the country. He’s started meeting with investors. “That’s what’s on the table. If I can get $250,000 I can put a Cuzin’s Duzin in every Walmart across the country,” he says. “It’s a billion-dollar industry, and we can carve out a niche.

“Once you eat a donut you’re a Cuzin for life.”

Executive Editor Phil Scott is the author of seven books and numerous magazine articles.

Plenty More Fish for the Borough, Tra-la!

Detail of plate from a Villeroy & Boch 7-piece fish set on eBay (# 230907702410); best hurry, there's only one set.

Trout detail, Villeroy & Boch 7-pc. fish set, eBay #230907702410; best hurry, only one!

BROOKLYN’S COMMUNITY SUPPORTED FISHERY Mermaid’s Garden has just announced two new pickup points starting later this month. Adding Ditmas Park’s Sycamore Bar and Flower Shop and Williamsburg’s Urban Rustic will greatly extend Mermaid’s Garden’s coverage for more than 200 fish lovers and adventurous eaters across Brooklyn.

There are also openings for some new members in the established spots in Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy, and Bushwick (see mermaidsgardennyc.com for locations). As always, the fish offered are sustainable species responsibly fished by individuals you will often get to know by name, thanks to the weekly email from Mermaid’s Garden.

Co-founders Bianca Piccillo, a Harvard-trained marine biologist, and Mark Usewicz, a Paris-trained chef, will become your mentors in protecting sealife one delicious dinner at a time. Bianca will gently educate you about the different varieties of fish they offer, frequently introducing you to the people and naming the boats that supply them, and on Mermaid’s Garden’s Facebook page, Mark shares recipes he has developed and some guidelines for better preparation. For instance, this one – posted last November – has proved itself in one of Brooklyn Artisan’s very own test kitchens.

Bay Scallop Crudo

Simple is the best recipe for bay scallops. This crudo recipe is a quick recipe that really lets the scallops shine.

12 Bay scallops, shucked
1 Tbsp. Lemon, juice of
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 drop Hot Sauce, (preferably scotch bonnet or habanero based)
Salt and Pepper
A few leaves of cilantro

1. In a nonreactive bowl mix the scallops, lemon, hot sauce and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the cilantro before serving.

But if that Italian-style scallop sushi is not your thing, you’ll find alternatives. [Read more…]

Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair: Placing a Bet on “First Annual”

The title says all – or does it? Fifty-five years later, the borough seems full of life.

Title sez all? But fifty-five years later, the Brooklyn brand is back.

THE HIGH-PEAKED ROOM WITH DARK EXPOSED BEAMS was small, off the beaten track, and crowded, but otherwise the antiquity of the Old Stone House made a perfect venue for the  “first annual” Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair on Saturday; never minding its oxymoron, it promised “rare, vintage, out-of-print books from independent booksellers from all over Brooklyn.” Brooklyn Artisan went to the BHBF not quite knowing what to expect  – like the young couple who lugged their formidable twins stroller all the way up the narrow stairwell and almost immediately right back down  – but BA had a happy time browsing among the second-hand and out-of-print science-fiction books from Singularity & Co., admiring Prints Charming‘s sweet old-fashioned florals and maps posted on two walls, and chatting with the vendors when they had time between customers.

Heather O’Donnell, owner of Honey & Wax Booksellers and the moving force behind the fair, had the best location, the classiest display and snazziest catalog by far. Small wonder, then, that BA’s favorite find was at her booth, a book called Manners for the Metropolis in which to read such things as this: “It is customary, in alluding to ladies in the ultra-fashionable set (provided they are not present) to speak of them by their pet names: ‘Birdie,’ ‘Baby,’ ‘Tessie,’ ‘Posy’; but, when face to face with these ladies, the utmost formality had best be observed.” Manners indeed.

Smart set social advice from 102 years ago.

Smart set social advice from 102 years ago.

The author, Frank Crowninshield, was the editor of the original Vanity Fair from its birth in 1914 until 1936, when it was folded. This book, published in 1910, was undoubtedly one of his qualifications for the job. The book sports stylishly smart illustrations. Heather obligingly held open the book so that BA could photograph one.

A used-book store specializing in New York history and culture, eight-year-old Freebird Books offered a well-selected group of old books about Brooklyn and the Outer Boroughs, along with copies of a book of recent photographs of Gowanus. In spite of its vulnerable-sounding location on Columbia Street “on the working South Brooklyn waterfront,” it escaped damage from Superstorm Sandy. Freebird likes to make things happen, with movie showings in its backyard and its “post-apocalyptic book club” meetups once a month.

P. S. Bookshop calls itself “the best book store in Brooklyn” for what it does. And that’s quite a bit. Owner Yuval Gans has given himself the broadest mandate, “buying and selling used and rare books, first editions and reprints, fiction and non-fiction, high-brow or low, children’s and young adults book, books in print and out of print, in English and other languages, scholarly books, art books and catalogs, magazines and other printed matter.” [Read more…]

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