SO SAYS INFORMATIONWEEK. In the 2015 InformationWeek “Elite 100” listings of top business-technology innovators, the Brooklyn Public Library not only makes the list – the only library to do so – but it’s no. 25, rubbing shoulders in the top quarter with UPS and FedEx, NASA, Boeing, Biogen, PayPal, TIAA-CREF and Merck. Why? “As a result of our partnership with Tableau,” says the library’s President and CEO Linda Johnson, “BPL’s 60 branches are more responsive than ever to the needs of the communities they serve.” The library’s eResources – meaning eBooks and eVideos, catalog info, even homework help – serve Brooklyn’s 2.5 million residents 24/7 at www.bklynlibrary.org. See ya’ at the libe — online.
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.”
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.”)
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.”
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.
Created in Brooklyn: Food and Drink Entrepreneurs Talk Shop
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.
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.
CSA Signups • Maker Opportunities Big and Small • Art and Literary Openings
Now on location in DUMBO: Heartwalk, a 30-foot art installation made from Sandy-salvaged wood. Situ Studio, a DUMBO-based design studio was commissioned to create this piece for the Times Square Alliance and the Design Trust for Public Space where the Heart was installed in Times Square. Boardwalk boards from Long Beach, NY; Sea Girt, NJ; Atlantic City, NJ were repurposed for the installation. Through April 30, DUMBO visitors are encouraged to interact with the piece and tweet/instagram photos to #DUMBOHeartwalk@DUMBOBID.
Art and Literary Happenings
Friday, March 15 Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts at Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Until the late twentieth century, much of quiltmaking was thought of as a craft, and makers were often anonymous. This exhibit of 35 quilt masterpieces will explore the way quilts have been seen and understood as both an art form and a craft. Traditionally, quilts have been displayed horizontally to represent the beds for which they were originally designed. Workt by Hand displays some quilts vertically—in the manner of a painting or print—to encourage viewers to think of them as art objects. Opening Friday. On display through September 15.
Friday, March 15 Currency, juried solo exhibition by Denis Beaubois at New York Art Residency & Studio Foundation. Currency asks us to consider: How much is an hour of your time worth and what is the worth of each dollar you make? This exhibit examines thoughts about economy and labor, the value of a work of art, the worth of one day’s work, all on a global scale. Sydney, Australia-based artist Denis Beaubois will talk at 7pm. Sunset Park. 6pm-8pm.
Saturday, March 16 Gotham: Writers in the City at the Brooklyn Public Library. Novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander discusses his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate. Grand Army Plaza. 4pm.
CSA signups happening now
The Vernal Equinox is on Wednesday at 7:02am. Balancing eggs on end: urban myth? Better to eat locally-sourced eggs—you could sign up now and get them through a Community Supported Agriculture group. CSAs work something like a magazine subscription in that members buy shares at the beginning of the season and receive regular deliveries of produce directly from the farmer. Now is the time that many CSAs are signing up customers for spring and summer shares. Just Food is a useful site listing all the CSAs in Brooklyn, and there are a lot. Here’s a short list of a few; check the site to locate more.
< • Partners Trace CSA at Huckleberry Bar, Williamsburg. New Paltz, NY based Partners Trace offers produce and flowers with an under-two-hour travel distance to Brooklyn. On Monday, March 18 from 5pm-7pm, Huckleberry Bar will host a CSA Happy Hour for signups and information.
• Iliamna Fish Company, a family-owned fishing cooperative on the Bering Sea in Bristol Bay, Alaska, offers shares in their wild red salmon harvests. The sockeye salmon from Iliamna contains the highest Omega-3 oil content and naturally occurring anti-oxidants of any Pacific salmon species. Customers include Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Applewood, and Dean & DeLuca. Shares will be available in late summer with pickup location in Brooklyn.
• Brooklyn Beet CSA, serving Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn. Season starts June 3 for 26 weeks.
• Clinton Hill CSA, for Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. Check out their informative newsletter The Beet.
For Makers and DIYers
Saturday, March 16 Brooklyn Craft Camp. This is a day-long DIY chance to craft your heart out, socialize and have fun. This may not start you on the road to Etsy-ville, but it sounds like a swell way to spend a Saturday learning some new techniques with like-minded craft lovers. The day will consist of four classes (with four finished projects); a chance to meet and work with craft-focused authors, bloggers and designers; and tastes of local food and drink. Brooklyn Craft Camp was founded by Brett Bara, a lifelong crafter turned DIY professional. Sponsors include West Elm, Purl Soho, Juice Box, The Crochet Dude, Vogue Knitting Live. Classes are filling up, so registration asap is advised. Greenpoint. 10am-7pm.
Sunday, March 17 Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Class: Easter/Spring Equinox Edition, part of The Morbid Anatomy Art Academy. The Academy offers a fascinating series of classes that reflect an interest in taxidermy, animal and insect anatomy, fine art techniques and arcane subjects. This 3-hour workshop will have you working with Rhinoceros beetles (thankfully they are provided), to make a shadowbox diorama. The class is taught by a former insect preparator from the American Museum of Natural History, and may cause you to see nature’s tiny giants in a whole new way. At Observatory, Gowanus. 1pm-4pm.
Monday, March 18 The Future of 3D Manufacturing—Brooklyn Style: an evening of panel discussions and demonstrations hosted by Brooklyn Futurist Meetup. This energetic, well-attended Meetup will be joined by Brooklyn Tech and Volumetric Society Meetups for a lively session with all-star 3D enthusiasts. Robert Steiner, from MakerBot will speak and demonstrate a MakerBot. D-Shape, Shapeways and Make editor Brian Jepson are among other participants. The event is wait-listed, but you can attend by following the instructions on the site. At Brooklyn Law School, Moot Court Room, Downtown Brooklyn. 7pm-9:30pm.
Sunday, April 28 Lettering class at L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts. Classes at LDBA fill up and sell out almost immediately, so consider this a heads up if you’re interested in attending any future sessions. This 90 minute class, for 6 students only, will provide instruction and materials to learn classic hand-rendered lettering and font techniques to produce cards and envelopes. LDBA is a hardware, housewares and artist supply store and site founded by artist Sara Moffat. “We provide tools, techniques and materials to allow people to excel in their medium,” says Sara. Other unique classes are offered for all age groups, and include Knot Tying (a hot topic, apparently), Make Your Own Bow and Arrows, Picasso and Kandinsky Study for ages 5 and up, and all seem to fill up right away. Williamsburg.
A post-Sandy update
Monday, March 18 Nathan’s Coney Island location on the Boardwalk is scheduled to reopen. And next weekend, as part of Coney Island’s opening weekend celebrations, the first qualifier round of the 2013 July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest will be held. There’s nothing slow-food or artisan about these dogs, but what’s better than enjoying one by the Atlantic’s surf? Nathan’s main location on Surf Avenue is still being repaired and will reopen Memorial Day Weekend.
Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy 32 Sol ♥
Too beautiful to pass by: Paulette Tavormina Natura Morta, a solo exhibition of photographs at Robert Mann Gallery. In the manner of Irving Penn and Edward Weston, Tavormina’s work depicts intensely personal images that recall old-master still-life paintings depicting edible objects. Her bio notes that she is an avid collector of butterflies and insects, shells, dried flowers and ceramics, and has worked as a food stylist in Hollywood. Outer Brooklyn—Chelsea, Manhattan. through March 9.
Friday: The next in a series of Friday Night Dinner at Court Street Grocers. According to Serious Eats, this larder-cum-sandwich place is run by “three dudes [who] just want to sell all the seriously good stuff they can find across the country.” And present a monthly BYOB dinner in their side dining room. Friday’s menu of five courses features ingredients such as octopus with caesar vinaigrette, crispy chicken skin and maytag blue cheese, bone marrow and bbq sunchokes. Court Street Grocers’s Red Hook annex was severely damaged by Sandy and owners Eric Finkelstein and Matt Ross are depending on crowdsourced fund-raising through Smallknot to help restore. Carroll Gardens. Reserve—two seatings at 7pm and 9:30pm are sure to fill up fast.
Saturday: Winter Cheese Party at The JakeWalk. Under the auspices of Stinky Bklyn, brush up on your knowledge of cheese pairings with wine, beer and cocktails during the cold days of January. After this week’s bitter temps, The JakeWalk’s comfy neighborhood vibe will keep things upbeat and toasty. Carroll Gardens. 1pm.
great for families Saturday and Sunday: Illuminated at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A series of winter pop-up events done Swedish-style. Featured on Saturday: a handstand class for adults, where lack of coordination is a plus (sign up begins at 10:30am for noon class). Moonlight Lantern Walk with giant puppets and stilt dancers celebrating the full moon at the Cherry Esplanade (6pm-8pm). On Sunday, the Mitten Lounge becomes a clubhouse for 9- to 15-year-olds complete with human pyramids, crafts, an acrobatic mandala and a flashlight tour. (12pm-5pm)
Another reason to keep your library card active: More exciting than the discussions about branding and the new logo is the opening of the Information Commons space at the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. The Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons, located on the first floor, consists of public meeting rooms, a training lab and an open workspace. The workspace is equipped with ten iMacs and two HP design stations for general public use; each is equipped with Adobe CS6 Creative Suite, Audacity, Pro Tools, Office, Final Cut Pro X, and more creative and production software. One of seven meeting rooms—that can be reserved online—doubles as an amateur recording studio for audio and video projects. The room offers a video DSLR camera, microphones, and an iMac editing workstation. It’s wonderful that the Library is encouraging multi-media creativity, as well as being a local workstation source in case your Mac has a kernel panic or otherwise misbehaves.
But it’s worth it: I have to thank fellow bloggers at Brooklyn Based for turning me on to a topic that is only slightly less talked about than Michelle’s bangs: Elbow Room’s mac and cheese menu. Located at the Barclays Center, the diet-wrecking selections start with Chef Luis Ulloa’s excellent mac-and-cheese base and add creative toppings. Poutine Mac (short rib gravy, yukon french fries, fresh cheese curds), Brats and Beer (Esposito’s sausage, Bronx Brewery Ale, caramelized onion), Mushroom Mac (crimini mushroom, spinach, Vermont gruyère, crispy shallots) are tempting…even if Lobster Macaroni Salad is more commonplace now. Elbow Room is open during Barclays Center events and to the public during non-event times. To do: bank the points, slip on the Fuel Band, promise to repent and report back. Prospect Heights.
Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to email@example.com
INSPIRED BY A NEWLY ISSUED LIBRARY CARD from the Brooklyn Public Library and by a tip from Madeleine Appell, an instructor at Kingsborough Community College, I went to visit two branch libraries to look at the architecture and design of the buildings.
The Kensington Library branch opened on November 15 in a newly built, LEED-certified green, sustainable and fully ADA-compliant building. The new building replaces an older location that was a few blocks away in a former catering hall from the 1960s. This light-filled open space is cool as can be, yet warm and appealing, even as it stands out from the surrounding residential neighborhood of traditional-looking low-rise homes and mish-mash storefronts. I love the daylight that streams in from the glass walls and skylit atrium, along with the arty Calder-like mobiles suspended from the second floor. This would be a fun, cheery place to spend a few hours reading or surfing the web.
Sustainable features of lighting, heating and cooling systems, and thoughtfully-selected materials and finishes are invisible in such a well-designed and people-friendly space. The Kensington branch has been one of Brooklyn’s most active library locations with over 100,000 items in circulation. It’s hoped that this beautiful new space will provide an energy-efficient and healthier environment for users and staff. Unfortunately, according to the Daily News, this may be the last branch built from scratch. Due to budget realities, the Brooklyn Public Library is considering preexisting storefront locations for new branches.
Back in Brownstone Brooklyn, the Park Slope Library, known as “Prospect Branch,” reopened in September after nearly three years of renovations. As befits the neighborhood, this building is replete with the columns, paned-glass, and details found in the landmarked homes surrounding it. Renovation has brought new lighting, technology, climate control, and accessibility to this 1906 building that was part of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy. It was all in use when I visited this afternoon—kids, parents, caretakers, and the occasional grown-up, all gently engaged with books and computers, in comfy, well-lit spaces. A row of strollers were parked neatly by the entrance.
City Councilman Brad Lander notes that libraries routinely provide internet access and computers to the 50% of New York households without high-speed internet, as duly noted by the activity I observed in both branches today.
Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekend to-do lists.
Learn to sew, work with glass, get your bike repaired and sample homebrews
Saturday and Sunday: Food Trucks at Prospect Park’s Parade Grounds. A rotating selection from Gorilla Cheese NYC, Kimchi Taco Truck, Mud Truck, Snap Truck, Toum Truck. “Reward your kid for a soccer game well played with an artisanal grilled cheese.” Ok. Through November 17. 8am-5pm.
Saturday and Sunday: Stained Glass Weekend at UrbanGlass, Brooklyn’s resource for aspiring and established artists to create with glass. This is a two-day beginner’s class to explore the fundamentals of cutting, copper foiling and soldering. Park Slope. 12pm-5pm, both days.
Outer Brooklyn Friday: Rubin Museum of Art. New and ongoing exhibitions of art of Himalayan Asia in a beautiful space. Friday events include: the K2 Lounge—light dining, drinks and entertainment by music stylist Kamala, and a screening of classic The 400 Blows by François Truffaut, introduced by author Annette Insdorf. At least one Brooklyn Artisan’s spouse is going to this one. Chelsea, Manhattan. Free admission 6pm-10 pm.
Saturday: Brooklyn Wort—Brooklyn’s Homebrew Competition. 25 brewers, one location, the public decides. Sponsored by Park Slope’s Brooklyn Homebrew, and Ditmas Park’s Sycamore. Event is held at Public Assembly, a former mayonnaise factory in Williamsburg. Tastings at 2pm and 4pm.
Saturday: The Art of Fashion Illustration: Antonio Lopez. A talk and exhibit about the 70s and 80s fashion illustrator. Guaranteed to contain fashion, art, sex and disco. The Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library, Dweck Center. 4pm
Saturday: Sew Your Own Burlesque Dancer Halloween Costume. A class to learn how to use a sewing machine, hand sew, and “vamp up”. At Film Biz Recycling & Prop Shop, Gowanus. Sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery. 2:30pm-5:30pm.
Good for Families Sunday: Young Artists @ 440: Coney Island Amusements. A free, hands-on art workshop for children ages 4 to 12. Inspired by the current exhibition at 440 Gallery Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society featuring work by Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano. Park Slope. 4:40pm-6:00pm.
Sunday: The Annual Late October Walking Tour, Green-Wood Cemetery. Tales of murder, mayhem, spirits and ghosts led by Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman. Very popular, purchase tickets in advance. Two tours: 1pm and 3pm.
Sunday: Made in DUMBO Walking Tour. Given by Made in Brooklyn Tours—guided walking tours that tell the story of Brooklyn’s industrial revolution and revival through the creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Brooklynites past and present. 1:30pm.
Laugh: The Hipster Song. Maybe it applies to you, maybe it doesn’t. We hope it makes you smile.
Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekend to-do lists.
Send items for listings to firstname.lastname@example.org