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.

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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.

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for April 6 and 7

A short list of weekend openings and events
John Singer Sargent, Villa di Marlia, Lucca: A Fountain, 1910. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund. At Brooklyn Museum, now.

John Singer Sargent, Villa di Marlia, Lucca: A Fountain, 1910. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund. At Brooklyn Museum, now.

S A T U R D A Y
caption here

Maker + Materials: tree house architect Romero. (Photograph, Caroline Voagen Nelson)

A Tree House grows in Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Wood from reclaimed trees felled by Hurricane Sandy is showing up in many uses and locations. Reclaim NYC, with designs implemented out of Sandy debris, will be exhibiting at NYCxDesign in May. Opening Saturday, tree house architect Roderick Romero is constructing a new site-specific installation using trees downed by Sandy. This promises to be part artwork, part open-air classroom, and will certainly be fun to view and walk through.

New exhibition, “That Perfectly Arranged Mouth,” paintings by Katharine Colona Hopkins. At 440 Gallery, Park Slope.

Inaugural exhibition, Next Generation, by Park Slope artist Lori Nelson. At Ground Floor Gallery, Park Slope. 6pm-10pm.

Inaugural exhibition, “Next Generation,” by Park Slope artist Lori Nelson.
At Ground Floor Gallery, Park Slope. 6pm-10pm.

GO: New exhibition, “John Singer Sargent Watercolors,” plus Target First Saturday. Brooklyn Museum.

Great for kids: Spring Seed Celebration & Swap, an annual celebration of making things grow. At Old Stone House and Washington Park. Park Slope. 10am-4pm.

Lumpia Shack’s return to Smorg

Lumpia Shack’s back @ Smorg

Return of Smorgasburg! Over 100 vendors in a new location in Williamsburg, at East River State Park. 11am-6pm.

Smorg vendors I’m seeking out: Brooklyn Piggies, Bolivian Llama Party, ISH Premium Horseradish, Lumpia Shack…let us know what you recommend.

Jazz Healing Force of The Universe. Saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett does two sets at Sistas’ Place Coffee House, Bed Stuy. 9pm and 10:30pm. Part of the month-long Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival presented by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium. For the 14th year, this longest running grassroots festival features more than 500 artists performing in 50 venues throughout Brooklyn.

S U N D A Y
smorgDUMBO

Whether at Smorgasburg, above, or at a Food Truck Rally, food always seems to taste better al fresco.

The food trucks return to the Park with a Food Truck Rally at Grand Army Plaza. Every first and third Sunday of the month will give everyone the chance to dine in style at Mike’n’Willie’s, Milk Truck, Rickshaw Dumplings, plus a dozen more vendors. Afterwards, you could run or walk it off around the Park’s 3.35 mile loop. Prospect Park at Grand Army Plaza. 11am-5pm.

Return of Smorgasburg! Over 75 vendors are back at the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO. 11am-6pm.

Recycle easily and safely: Spring NYC SAFE (solvents, automotive, flammable, electronics) disposal event. Here’s a one-stop way to get rid of potentially harmful household products. Depending on the product, materials collected will either be recycled, blended for fuel, or sent to licensed hazardous waste treatment facilities for safe disposal. Prospect Park, corner of Parkside Avenue and Prospect Park SW. 10am-4pm.

fifthTasteW E D N E S D A Y, April 10

Purchase tickets soon for A Taste of Fifth at the Grand Prospect Hall. We’re liking that $20 of your $45 ticket will go to a non-profit Fifth Avenue BID member of your choice. This is a chance to try some of the most talked about food and drink from places you never seem to get to, such as Fleisher’s, Campo Di Fiori, Leske’s Bakery, Pork Slope, lots more. The Grand Prospect Hall has to be one of the more ornate party places in the area—can you name a film it appeared in? Park Slope. 6:30pm.

2todoNOTEJoy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn, November 9, 10, 11

A chance to recharge, support and giveback: theater discounts, house and history tours and it’s Meat Week NYC with events to benefit Sandy recovery

Best of is glad to be back with more eclectic things to do in Brooklyn and Outer Brooklyn.
BE SURE TO CONFIRM with each event or venue as schedules and availability continue to change for many things.

Miguel Cervantes in the classic Giant, performed at the Public Theater. (photo by Karen Almond.)

Through Sunday: Off Broadway post-Sandy Discounts. Playhouses big and small were dark last week and as an enticement to get audiences to return, many are offering $20 tickets. Among the offerings: “A Summer Day” featuring Karen Allen, at the Cherry Lane Theatre, and $15 tickets at The Public Theater for three shows. NYTimes lists participating theaters.

Through Sunday: Meat Week NYC, celebrating the farmers, markets and chefs who bring sustainable meat to our tables. Tastings, parties, butchering and cooking demos, market tours, talks. Updates to scheduled events will benefit Sandy relief efforts. Brooklyn and Outer Brooklyn locations, check the website for specifics.

Friday: The Shooting Gallery, part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 30th Next Wave Festival. An interactive installation in which the audience will trigger short video and audio clips with lasers while circulating through the theater. “Creating something like a group gestalt,” according to director Bill Morrison. BAM Fisher Fishman Space, Fort Greene. 7:30pm and 9pm.

Friday: Broads for a Cause—An art benefit for Planned Parenthood. Opening reception and silent auction of artwork from over 45 female artists and tattooers. Sponsored by Coney Island Beer and Cupcakeland. At Eight of Swords Tattoo, Williamsburg. 7pm-11pm.

Saturday & Sunday: International Passive House Days. Four Brooklyn residences will be open for tours: two landmarked homes, two new construction. All use construction methods that meet Passive House standards: comfortable temperatures year round, affordable to build, energy savings, renewable. Various locations, check the website for information.

Saturday & Sunday: 21st Annual Quilt Show “Cool Quilts”. This annual exhibit showcases some of the most interesting quilts made in the area. This year’s show takes inspiration from the word cool. Lefferts Historic House, Prospect Park. 12pm-4pm.

Bldg92 at Brooklyn Navy Yard is on the tour on Saturday.

Saturday: Brooklyn Navy Yard by Bus: the Past, Present & Future of the Yard. Voted 2012 best tour by New York, this tour packs almost 400 years of city history in a little over two hours. At its peak, the Navy Yard employed tens of thousands of workers, but then stood idle for almost 30 years. In its current resurrection as a haven for artists and entrepreneurs, the Yard is becoming a model for sustainable urban industrial parks. Included in the tour is a closer look at the dry dock that’s been in use since before the Civil War, a hospital frozen in time, and the nation’s first multi-story LEED Gold-certified industrial building. Advanced ticket purchase is advised. Vinegar Hill. 2pm.

Saturday: The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. A one-day series of events featuring artists and publishers displaying and selling publications; lectures and conversations on comics; exhibits.
Free public exhibition. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Williamsburg. 12pm-7pm.
Events and talks throughout the day, such as a Q&A with Roz Chast at 2:30pm. The Knitting Factory, Williamsburg. 11am-4:30pm.
Screening of two documentaries about cartoonists Joann Sfar and Ben Katchor. Followed with a discussion by filmmaker Sam Ball and subject Ben Katchor moderated by WFMU’s Benjamen Walker. At Union Docs, Williamsburg. 7:30pm.

Saturday: Farmy Folks Soiree Markets Fundraiser and Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony sponsored by the Hattie Carthan Community Farmers Market. You are invited to join in on a home-grown family-style feast, live eco and folk performances, locally grown/produced wines, local bread, more. Tickets required. Bedford Stuyvesant. 6pm-10pm.

Puppetmaking workshop at BAM, Sunday.

Sunday: Great for families The Sweatshirt Sheep Puppetmaking Workshop, Brooklyn Academy of Music. Part of BAMcinématek series Puppets on Film. Make your own puppets and then perform your creations in front of a camera. Be sure to check out other puppet programing throughout the weekend at BAM, Fort Greene. 11am, 2:30pm.

Sunday: Open Studio and Gift Sale by watercolor and ceramic artist Sally Mara Sturman. Paintings, illustrations, drawings, prints and pottery, old (really cheap!) and new (not so cheap).

Illustrated Ceramic Bowl by Sally Mara Sturman, Open Studio and Sale, Sunday

Sally’s Etsy site All Things Painted is also on sale [use coupon code: HOLIDAY1 for 20% off]. To visit her Lefferts Garden Open Studio, contact Sally for exact address. Please mention Brooklyn Artisan. 2pm-7pm.

Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekend to-do lists.
Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for October 19, 20, 21

Walking tours that help you work off the eating

Friday: Launch party for Widow Jane Whiskey, a single barrel bourbon. Cocktails, BBQ, Live Bluegrass music, whiskey distillation and white lightning from the still. At Cacao Prieto Distillery & Chocolate Factory, Red Hook. 7pm-10pm.

Friday: Celebrate Cider Week NY with Cheese and Cider at BKLYN Larder. Demo by Eve’s Cidery plus cheese and cider pairings. Park Slope. 5pm-8pm.

Saturday & Sunday: Electronic Waste Recycling in Brooklyn, sponsored by the Lower East Side Ecology Center
Saturday: Flatbush Food Coop, Cortelyou Road, Flatbush. 10am-4pm.
• Sunday: PS29 at Baltic Street, Cobble Hill. 10am-4pm.

Painting by Frangiou Fotini,
BWAC, this weekend.

Saturday & Sunday: Last weekend for Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (BWAC) Affordable Art Auction. Red Hook. Silent auction until 4pm each day. Winners can take art home by 6pm.

Saturday: Events in Bed-Stuy:
Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc.
34th annual House Tour. Self-guided tour from 11am-4pm.
• Bed-Stuy Bazaar featuring merchandise from Fulton Arts Fair members. 10:30am-3:30pm.
BeSAA 9th Annual Studio Strut. Self-guided tour of local artists in their studios, homes, galleries and area businesses. 3pm-7pm

Saturday: Prospect Park Food Truck Rally. To date, 16 trucks including: Bongo Brothers, Cupcake Crew, Eddies Pizza, Green Pirate, Kimchi Taco Truck, Mexicue, Milk Truck, Nuchas, Phil’s Steaks, Red Hook Lobster, Rickshaw Truck, Schnitzel & Things, Souvlaki GR , Taïm Mobile, Wafels & Dinges. Sponsored by Prospect Park Alliance and the NYC Food Truck Association. Grand Army Plaza. 11am-5pm.

Brownstones in Bed-Stuy and mansions in Bay Ridge will be part of walking tours on Saturday. (Photo courtesy
of the Historic Districts Council.)

Saturday: Bay Ridge walking tour led by Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy. The tour focuses on some of the neighborhood’s most pressing preservation priorities. 10am

Saturday: 2nd annual Tastes of Brooklyn. Top Brooklyn chefs partner with farmers and seeds in the middle of the Greenmarket at Borough Hall. 11:30am-3pm.

Sunday: 3rd annual Havemeyer Sugar Sweets Festival. All-donation bake sale and baking competition to raise funds for The City Reliquary museum and civic organization. Baking Smackdown schedule: The most decadent vegan, 11am. Best fall-flavored treat, 12pm. Best sweet slice, 1pm. Best booze-infused, 2pm. Best In Show, 3pm. Williamsburg, 10am-4pm.

Sunday: Pickling Canning Workshop, one of a series of classes in practicing the skills of sustainable living. Everyone who attends will get a jar of something to bring home. Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, Park Slope. 1pm-3pm.

At MAD: Basket. Jeremy Frey, 2011. (Image copyright
©2012 Ari Plosker, all rights reserved)

Sunday: 3rd annual MAC-OFF, a no-holds-barred competition to find the best version of the All-American classic macaroni and cheese. With complementary Ommegang BPA. Huckleberrybar, Williamsburg. 5pm-8pm.

Sunday in Outer Brooklyn: Closing day for Changing Hands, Art Without Reservation 3. Contemporary Native North American Art from the Northeast and Southeast. Museum of Art and Design. “MAD” explores the blur zone between art, design, and craft today. MAD’s history of honoring the relationship between materials and maker is evident in their architecturally-fascinating space at Columbus Circle. Manhattan. 11am-6pm.


Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekend to-do lists.
Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

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