Rinken’s Wrench N’ Ride Gets ‘Em on the Road Again

"The Wild Ones" with Marlon Brando imprinted the American imagination  with the sexy biker image.

The Wild One: Marlon Brando didn’t need no fancy ‘lectronics on his bike.

MY 1979 KZ 750 WASN’T MUCH TO LOOK AT BUT it was clean with no major dents or scratches and nice chrome fenders and a seat in fine shape. Some days I’d ridden longer than 12 hours at a stretch. The bike always made it better than me. Besides burning oil it was mechanically sound. Except the irreplaceable mechanical ignition points—which lasted a decade. The bike’s book value was $70. One final time I file the points and barely made it to the nearest shop that would deign to take it.

That was 13 years ago. I still have the manual.

 Now Chris Rinken tells me $30 would put it back on the highway.

The author sitting atophis ex-motorcycle, a '79 Kowasaki KZ-750, Blue Book value $70.

The author sitting atop his ex-motorcycle, a ’79 Kawasaki KZ-750, Blue Book value $70.

“[Expletive deleted],” I say.

“I’m sorry,” he replies.

Rinken, owner of Wrench N’ Ride Motorcycle Repair, a small garage beside his home on the corner of Seigel and Bogart streets, works exclusively on pre-electronic, vintage motorcycles—anything ’81 and older. He tells stories that start out like mine.

“One guy kinda had no idea what to do to get his ‘72 CV 350 running. It was in storage for six years and he paid $600 for it and owned it for two years but it never ran. He was pushing it around from apartment to apartment, and—a total fluke—luckily for him there happened to be motorcycle shop,” Rinken says. “He was super pumped about it.”

Rinken didn’t replace a part, he just cleaned the carb. “The bike just needed some care,” he shrugs. And that’s all he does. Rinken stays away from body work or welding, but he can recommend someone.

“If it runs I completely leave it at that,” he says. Rinken first started riding at 11 and learned to work on bikes from his dad. Basic, simple stuff. “Nobody knew how to do vintage maintenance,” he says. “They weren’t raised with a dad who knew all that stuff.”

After graduating from law school in ’12, into the worst economy this side of the Depression, he opened Wrench ‘N Ride. Today he has eight vintage bikes in the garage. One ‘64 Honda 90 cc that he laid hands on is worth $2,500 dollars now.

A shop like Wrench N’ Ride is rare, unique even, considering the sheer number of motorcycles in Brooklyn. To help people buying vintage bikes make sure they weren’t being scammed, Rinken offered a second set of eyes. “A couple of customers wanted to learn basic maintenance, basic inspection stuff,” he says, “just as a way to make sure to get it on the road and avoid really expensive bills from the repair shop.” He’s starting classes now. “We have motorcycles in the shop, and we have extra tools. We get people here who want to learn about bikes, who maybe want to get into it, try it to see if they like doing it. It’s all about getting people into the community.

“I’d rather have a bike that’s worthy,” he says. “The last bike the shop sold was an old Honda 360 that had flames on it. It does a hundred miles an hour if it needs to.”

Wrench N’ Ride Motorcycle Repair

315 Seigel Street

Bushwick, Brooklyn NY 11206

608 695-8392

 Phil Scott is an executive editor of Brooklyn Artisan, a former managing editor of Omni magazine, and the author of seven books, mostly about the history of aviation. He lives in Rockaway.

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Chalk a Menu Idea for Your House

Chalkboard from Fleishers

(Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

OF COURSE THE WEATHER TURNED FREAKISHLY WARM a few days after this sign was put out by Fleishers, the artisanal butcher on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope that specializes in grass fed, organic meats. But a timely menu suggestion has been made. Dust off the trusty stew pot or set out to acquire one, for chilly days will soon be here.

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.

Sufganiyot: Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah

Day Three 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
Ostrovitsky-sufganiyot1581

Sufganiyot in the window of Ostrovitsky Bakery in Midwood.

dec8POTATO LATKES FRIED IN HOT OIL may be the iconic dish to eat at Hanukkah, but we hold a special place in our heart for sufganiyot, the deep-fried jelly-filled donut that Israelis go crazy about during this holiday. In The Book of Jewish Food, author and food scholar Claudia Roden tells us that the “Austro-Hungarian peasant carnival doughnut, which became a “royal” delicacy at the French court of Marie Antoinette has been adopted in Israel to celebrate Hanukkah because it is fried in oil”—oil to commemorate the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the flame in the Temple alight for eight days. Like many famous dishes, though, its origins are the subject of Talmudic debate. 

But never mind about that. How do I get my hands on some? The answer you’ll hear from Brooklyn connoisseurs will more likely than not be Ostrovitsky Bakery in Midwood. “We make thousands of them at Hanukkah,” the bakery owner tells me when I pay a visit, “thousands. We’ve been doing it every Hanukkah for 18 years.” To get a jump on the lines that will later form out the door, I bring home a supply to do a little early taste-testing with my friends. Our verdict: Maybe you could almost feed a family with one of them…but Hanukkah only comes once a year. Sweet, scrumptious.

Mile-End-Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot, in The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamantaschen. (Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Mile End Delicatessen in Boerum Hill has developed quite a fan club, too, for its sufganiyot, but sadly there will be none this year, co-owner Rae Bernamoff tells us. Sad for us, maybe; she certainly has bigger problems: Mile End’s central commissary kitchen, where it does all its baking (and curing and smoking and pickling) was flooded during Sandy. It’s in a Civil War era building on Pier 41 in Red Hook and “as with most of the waterfront,” she said, “the high tide surge pushed about four feet of water into our space. We’re still rebuilding.”

mile-end-book-coverAs a consolation, and to show solidarity, head to the deli itself for what sounds like a gut-busting $16 “surf and turf” latke special:  two open-faced latkes—potato, celery root and parsnip pancakes—one topped with chopped liver, pickled eggs and gribenes (chicken or goose skin cracklings), the other with creamy whitefish salad with trout roe.

And if your heart is really set on some Mile End sufganiyot, then you’ll have to make them yourself. You’ll find the recipe in the very appetizing The Mile End Cookbook, by Noah and Rae Bernamoff. Latkes, too, and a lot more dishes “redefining Jewish comfort food.”

One more stop: Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope also has tasty jelly donuts (along with a full Hanukkah catering menu) but shhh, don’t tell anyone, they’re baked not fried.

Ostrovitsky Bakery
1124 Avenue J, Midwood
718-951-7924
The bakery is Shomer Shabbos: closes before sundown on Friday, reopens on Sunday. 

Mile End Delicatessen 
97A Hoyt St, Boerum Hill
718-852-7510 

Brooklyn Larder 
228 Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope 
718-783-1250

Photograph (top) by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Bauhaus, by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso, ITC, 1975.

How to Eat Those Veggies No Matter What

When your power’s out for who knows how long, you start to appreciate some of life’s simpler things. You realize that canning is civilization’s third-greatest invention, right behind 10-speed bicycles and grandma’s knitted sweaters. Artisanal, DIY types might have Ball jars full of home-grown preserves in their well-stocked pantries, but if you’re me you head directly to the canned-green-bean aisle at Key Food.

How to recognize the can opener on your Swiss Army KnifeOpening a can without power is no problem to me these days. When my electric can opener shot craps—it was during the Great New York City Blackout of ’02 or ’03 when it suddenly stopped working—I trashed it and devolved to the manual one with the butterfly handles that turn the circular blade that presses against the gear that presses against the can’s lip.

Then I discovered one on my Swiss Army Knife. Within a few minutes and a couple of failed tries that resulted in minor wounds, I figured out how it works—and simultaneously realized that this is undoubtedly how people did it in the old, old early days of American canning. And now I’m passing on that wisdom to you.

Better pay attention: I hear a nor’easter is headed our way on Thursday.   [Read more…]

Business Is Cooking at Smorgasburg

ImageTHE LAST DAYS OF THIS YEAR’S SMORGASBURG food fair are going to be here before we can possibly get our fill (November 17 at the original Williamsburg site, November 18 in DUMBO) so we thought we’d head over while the weather was still beautiful. What better excuse than a houseful of guests last weekend (from France! from Canada!) hungry to sample the wares of Brooklyn food artisans they’d heard so much about. (The New York Times has famously called it the “Woodstock of Eating.”)

To avoid going underground on such a sunny fall day, we took the East River Ferry from Manhattan and looped our way to the Brooklyn side of the river, past the Long Island City and Greenpoint stops, down to Williamsburg, getting a few peeks at old industrial Brooklyn along the way.

Once we landed at Smorgasburg, we were hit by irresistible smells and sizzles, but before diving in, we paused a moment to take in the stunning Manhattan backdrop to this outdoor market. Location, location, location indeed.

The 75+ vendors at Smorgasburg are wildly diverse—and not just from a culinary point of view. For some, the food fair, started by Brooklyn Flea last year, is a launch pad for bringing a new product to market. In the beginning, it may be a business’s sole distribution point. For a brick-and mortar establishment like Porchetta, the East Village shop where Chef Sara Jenkins sells her “drop-dead delicious” Italian street-food sandwich, it’s an additional sales outlet and marketing vehicle. For others, it’s one of several distribution points: You’ll find Kelso of Brooklyn beers at Smorgasbar (a roped- off drinks area introduced in the middle of the food fair this year) as well as at bars around NYC (especially Brooklyn). Grady’s Cold Brew coffee, available at Smorgasburg, is also sold online and at Whole Foods in NYC and beyond.

How does this distribution puzzle fit together? Finding the right channels—and getting access to them—is always a challenge for small food producers. We look forward to talking more to Brooklyn artisans about what works, what doesn’t and hearing about lessons learned they’d like to share.

Oh, and the funny thing: After circling the market and winding back and forth, all five of us landed up on line at Landhaus.

ImageMaple bacon on a stick—how could my Canadian heart resist?—and a juicy lamb burger, perfectly cooked. It was BLTs for the boys (maple bacon slab included). Plus Kelso’s Belgian Pale Ale and Sixpoint’s Crisp Lager, capped off by BiteMe mini cheesecakes and Alchemy’s Dark Chocolate vegan frozen dessert.

Even after the November closing dates, Brooklyn Flea assures us that 10 hot/prepared food vendors and about 7 to 8 packaged food vendors will be at Skylight One Hanson, Brooklyn Flea’s winter home. They’ll all be on the lower level of the market toward the back.

Smorgasburg: 8 Weekends Left!
11 am to 6 pm
Saturdays on the Williamsburg waterfront between North 6th and North 7th St., at the East River
Sundays (except September 30) on the DUMBO waterfront at the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park
 
                                        Basia Hellwig curates the Food/Drink category for Brooklyn Artisan.
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