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.

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Who’s Who in Creating 12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Artisan’s 12 Days of Brooklyn is our gift of the season when you visit our site.

12 Views of Brooklyn were gathered from artists and photographers who have looked at Brooklyn through creative and loving eyes and curated by Anne Mollegen Smith. 12 Tastes of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Basia Hellwig12 Sips of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Bruce A. Campbell.

Typographic designs of the date stamps for all 12 days are by Joy Makon Design.

DEC. 6  Date stamp font:  Avant Garde, by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnese, ITC, 1970.

The arch at Grand Army Plaza lighted for the holidays (Photo by Joseph Caserto. More: Who’s Who)

The arch at Grand Army Plaza decorated for the holidays, photograph by Joseph Caserto.  A resident of Brooklyn since the late 1980s, Caserto is an award-winning publication designer and earned a BFA with honors from Pratt Institute. See more of his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto

EDITOR’S UPDATE: Joseph Caserto has kindly offered Brooklyn-Artisan visitors a 30% discount on boxed card sets that include this brilliant image of Grand Army Plaza on a winter night. Go to http://www.etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto and use the coupon code COUNTDOWN12.

DEC. 7  Date stamp font: Mrs Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1996

Fall and Winter Tree at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, photograph by Jake Miller. Miller is a writer as well as a photographer and was a Brooklyn resident in the 1990s, when he shot a series called Brooklyn Light. His articles and photographs have appeared in many national magazines. He now lives in the Boston area.

  

DEC. 8  Date stamp font: Bauhaus, by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso, ITC, 1975

Photograph by Joy Makon; see Who's Who.

Menorah in the Snow, photograph by Joy Makon, taken in 2009 in Windsor Terrace. A resident of small-town Brooklyn since 1983, Joy is a magazine art director+designer and an indefatigable lover of all things new and cool. She curates Craft & Design for Brooklyn Artisan and writes and produces the weekly Best of Brooklyn listings.

Dec. 9  Date Stamp font: Cochin, Georges Peignot, Linotype, 1912

sledding_homeSledding Home, 2009, is an oil-on-canvas painting by Ella Yang, who is a member of the artist-run collective and gallery, 440 Gallery, in Park Slope. The gallery is run collectively by more than a dozen artists with very different styles and outlooks, but a common commitment. It is located in Park Slope on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets.

Dec. 10  Date stamp font: Chalet Tokyo, by René Albert Chalet (a clothing designer), House Industries, 1970

Peace Detail from a mural in Park Slope, boy and girlAt right, these 4 panels appear to the right of the children’s More Panels in 8th Street Muralpanel in the 8th Street mural. Just down the street is a Beansprouts childcare center, and around the corner, a church.

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Dec. 11  Date stamp font: Goudy Oldstyle, by Frederick W. Goudy, Linotype, 1915

(Used by permission of the homeowner)

When you visit the site of the Mill Basin house, you can sign the guestbook and review the extensive press clippings. Screen shot 2012-12-10 at 12.43.57 PMAt right, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, holding the proclamation, with the Teitelbaum family.

Dec. 12  Date stamp font: Gill Sans Ultra Bold, by Eric Gill, Monotype, 1928

September Rain,7th Avenue, etching by September Rain, Seventh Avenue, 2006, etching by Eric March (edition of 25). Eric March’s first solo show was A Brooklyn Year at the Park Slope Gallery in 2006. His second show at the gallery was Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island, in 2009. He teaches painting and illustration in the New York City area. The Park Slope Gallery shows by appointment.

Editor’s Note: Making and printing etchings are special skills: Etching is generally done to a metal plate by coating the surface, then scratching through the coating with a special stylus; an acid is then used to eat away the scratched lines which later hold the ink for the image to be printed. A particular piece is usually identified by the position in the series and the number that are in the edition – 1/25 meaning the first of 25, and so on. A lower number is not necessarily an indicator of quality, since much effort goes into making all the pulls equally good; rather, it is a way of tracking or inventorying the images to discourage theft, loss and forgery, and signals relative scarcity. The artist’s signature – usually written in pencil – shows that he approved the quality of that particular piece. A gallery or publisher sometimes underwrites a limited edition as a form of investment, and value may even rise as inventory shrinks.

Dec. 13  Date stamp font:  Shelley Allegro, by Matthew Carter, Linotype, 1972

Photograph by Joy Makon.  See Who's Who.

 Porches in the Snow, 2009, by Joy Makon. See her bio above, for Dec. 8. For most of her publications career, Joy has worked as a designer, but as readers of her Joy’s Best of Brooklyn column for Brooklyn Artisan know, she also writes well. Early sign of crossover skills: She was editor of her high school newspaper, and went from there to art school.

Dec. 14  Date stamp font: Rockwell, by Morris Fuller Benton and Frank Pierpont, Monotype, 1934

Painting by Ella Yang. See Who's Who

Canal Cloud Reflections, 2010,  another oil painting by Ella Yang (see Dec.9, above).”This was a very still morning, the water in the Gowanus Canal was high and there were plenty of clouds to make great reflections,” she recalls. “I love the contrast between the dilapidated, jumbled items on the left bank and the apparent organization of the buildings on the right bank. That’s the former Williamsburg Bank building on the right – a nice Brooklyn landmark that’s been turned into luxury condos!” Ella is a member of the art collective, 440 Gallery. (Next time you’re on the 440 Gallery site, browse the work of other gallery artists. You can also find other views of the Gowanus, this time abstracts, by 440’s Karen Gibbons.)

Dec. 15  Date stamp font: American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

The Brooklyn Roasting Co. maintains a phog – a photographic blog – on its site and invites contributions from outside the company. The result is a delightful mélange of coffee growing photographs, of the company’s staff and friends, of DUMBO and elsewhere in Brooklyn. This couldn’t-be-anywhere-but-DUMBO image emerged from that phog. Notice how the image is a study in verticals, from the construction fence through the tall alley and bridge struts to the towers of Outer Brooklyn across the river.

Dec. 17: Date stamp font: Industria, by Neville Brody, Linotype, 1989

Photograph by Joseph Caserto. See Who's Who.

Christmas Trees on Sale: Brooklyn-based design professional Joseph Caserto, whose Grand Army Plaza photo launched our series, also contributed this image of a Christmas tree vendor. Joe tweets – @josephcaserto – about his @udemy courses for students to learn InDesign, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, sometimes at a discount. He also sells his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto, with occasional discounts.

In 1851, the same year Henry Gritten (mentioned in Dec.14: 12 Views of Brooklynpainted Gowanus Bay, a Catskill Mountains farmer named Mark Carr launched the commercial Christmas tree business in New York City with two ox-drawn sleds loaded with forest-cut trees. He sold them all, and harvesting forest trees became a business, a kind of winter crop. In 1901, a from-scratch Christmas-tree farming operation was established in New Jersey, and seven years later their Norway Spruces went on the market for $1.00 apiece. By 2000, the number of American families using artificial trees was significantly larger than those with natural ones.

Dec. 17  Date stamp font: Mason, by Jonathan Barnbrook, Emigre, 1992

More bridge views, see Who's Who

Forget those people trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to hayseeds, how does one go about finding a large photograph of it suitable for framing? The selection is mind-boggling. You can check museum shops. You can inquire of Brooklyn photographers whose work you like. You can search by subject on many sites such as etsy.com and fineartamerica.com. There’s instagram and pinterest and the Flickr albums of your friends; ask around. Cross the river and check out the Union Square vendors. You can of course go out yourself, camera or iPhone in hand, by night and by day. You can order prints by size and by medium – would you like a print on canvas? Or in acrylic? Or acrylic on glass? Oh, you’ve settled on having the canvas wrapped around the sides of the mounting? You can get that done at the drug store right on the corner of Flatbush and Seventh Avenue. Step number one in a personal Views of Brooklyn gallery.

The portrait of Emily Warren Roebling in the Brooklyn Museum is by the French painter Charles Émile Auguste Carolus Duran. Emily’s older brother, Civil War General Gouveneur Kemble Warren –and the one who supported her interest in becoming educated though a girl – is remembered by his statue at the gateway to Prospect Park. Although the Warren family came from Cold Spring, NY, not Brooklyn, the brother and sister made their mark on this community.

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