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|September 22nd, 2004, 05:09 AM||#1|
Join Date: Dec 2002
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Trendy shopping areas grow in Brooklyn
A spree grows in Brooklyn
Trendy new shops in prime areas are turning parts of the borough into what some call the new Manhattan
BY BECKY AIKMAN
September 20, 2004
At a boutique called Butter, there's no sign on the austere black facade, not even a name stenciled discreetly on the door. The glass in the windows is frosted, so no one can see what's inside: clothing by bohemian-chic designers such as Dries Van Noten and Rick Owens, whose sweaters and jackets sell for $500 to more than $800.
Robin Weiss, the laid-back co-owner of the shop, sees no need to advertise. "Our customers come from all over - Manhattan, uptown, downtown, Long Island, Queens," said Weiss, languidly tossing a chew toy to the shop's resident beagle, Ross. "They know where to find us."
And where is that? This isn't Madison Avenue, NoLita or SoHo. It's Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, just a couple blocks up from a row of bail bond offices near the former Brooklyn House of Detention.
Customers of Butter aren't the only ones in on the secret. Brooklyn is fast becoming a destination for young, design-conscious shoppers and the stores that cater to them.
The boom in Brooklyn
In the past few years, dozens of these storefront businesses started cropping up, first in Williamsburg. Then they fanned out to places like Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Fulton Street in Fort Greene, and, most recently, Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.
The shops are the handiwork of a diverse and creative class of hipster entrepreneurs. Enticed by the borough's relatively low rents and newly cool image, they've been refurbishing the traditional small shops that have been the backbone of Brooklyn commerce for generations.
Replacing bodegas, coin-operated laundries and antiques shops, the new merchants offer everything from the latest pencil skirts to whimsical handbags to modern décor to hand-tooled jewelry. What they share seems to be merchandise with a handcrafted or few-of-a-kind look.
Most of the first-time shopkeepers are in their mid-20s to mid-30s and many have backgrounds in the arts or fashion. A sculptor, for example, sells contemporary furniture and housewares at Matter on Fifth Avenue. A recent fashion school graduate sells her own designs at Sir on Atlantic.
"Brooklyn is becoming a mecca of trendy shopping," said Vahap Funk, 39, a former artist who, with his 34-year-old wife, Lexy, also an artist, operates Brooklyn Industries. Their two stores, in Williamsburg and Park Slope, sell messenger bags, T-shirts and other clothing, many with the company's logo, a gritty urban view from the roof of their Williamsburg factory.
"People from Manhattan come, people from all over the country and all over the world come," Funk said. "In Williamsburg, we get a lot of trendsetters and stylists and people from big fashion companies. They come by to see what's cool, what's the next trend. We might have somebody buy eight or 10 items and pay with a corporate Nike card."
In Park Slope, he added, the customers tend to be more local. "It's a big residential community, and it's an affluent community," Funk said. "They respond to design very well, and they're excited about having designers and quality stores come to them as opposed to going to Manhattan to shop."
The latest streets to see a transformation are in or near Park Slope. Fifth Avenue, the neighborhood's once sleepy strip of pizza shops and funeral parlors, now has 26 shops selling clothing, furnishings, accessories, art and gourmet foods on the 14 blocks from St. Marks Place to Third Street. On nearby Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, 21 such shops line up along four blocks from Smith Street to Third Avenue.
The new stores are not far from the new Atlantic Terminal Mall, with its national retailers like Target, but in terms of scale and charm, the little shops are more in character with the brownstone neighborhoods that surround them.
Rents are starting to reflect the streets' new popularity. Peggy Aguayo of the real estate firm Aguayo & Huebener said that commercial spaces on Fifth now go for $25 to $55 a square foot, compared to $15 to $35 a decade ago. On Atlantic, broker Cara Sadownick of Harbor View Realty said prices now compare to those on Park Slope's Fifth, but were even lower 10 years ago, at $10 to $25 a square foot. Even today, rents are still lower than those in a prime Manhattan neighborhood, like SoHo, where stores pay $100 to $300, or an up-and-coming one like the Lower East Side, where they pay $50 to $100.
Shopkeepers like Darleen Scherer, 33, who grinds her own beans at Gorilla Coffee on Fifth, make a sport of spotting browsers from outside Brooklyn, who make up about a third of her clientele on weekends. "They're, like, asking where everything is, and they seem confused," she said. "You know how Manhattan people are when they come to Brooklyn.
"When I was in Paris a couple years ago," she added, "the people there said they all really wanted to come to Brooklyn. It has the buzz and it's cool, and they're seeking out what's cool."
The allure of lower rents
So cool stores were a logical step for the city's most bohemian borough. Young Manhattanites have been moving to Brooklyn for some time, seeking lower real estate prices, but it's no starving artists' quarter. "I would say they're yuppies, but creative yuppies," said Scherer, whose customers write books and design illustrations over cups of her critically acclaimed espresso. "They're successful creative types."
Restaurants and bars were the first commercial enterprises to cater to them, with lively strips developing along Smith Street and Fifth Avenue. The stores followed, in many cases started by people who lived in the neighborhood, former professionals or graduates of arts programs at Pratt Institute, in nearby Fort Greene.
In a strolling tour along Atlantic and Fifth, it's possible to meet many of them behind the counters. Starting at Smith and Atlantic, the contrast between old and new is most apparent. On the second floor of 298 Atlantic, Oscar Chiuz, the proprietor of Bad Apple Bail Bonds, assessed his new neighbors from behind bulletproof glass. "They're cool," he said. "But I don't go in for that stuff. I go to the mall maybe once a year."
Downstairs is Café Boo-Bah, its bright red walls stenciled with tulips and butterflies. Lena Seow, 30, who lives nearby, left the real estate business and started the cafe and shop last fall, selling healthy foods for parents and children and child-sized T-shirts printed with sayings like "Activism Starts Early."
"When you don't have that much money to begin with, you really have to be creative," said Seow, who chose Atlantic because rents were cheaper than those on Smith Street. "I don't want to sell things that everyone else sells."
Up the block, past the GRDN outdoor store and Metaphor contemporary art, Sir offers tailored clothing with custom touches. A tweed maroon jacket with a silk tie closure, for example, sells for $225. The designer, Joanna Baum, 30, graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and only sells through two other small stores, both in Manhattan. The co-proprietor, Nicole Rowars, 28, a former photographer, sells her own jewelry. "I just do photography for fun now," she said. "It's a tough field to get into."
Farther along, at a shop called artez'n, an artists' cooperative, Ursula Bugg was browsing for T-shirts and jewelry. Bugg, a 35-year-old artist visiting New York from Charleston, S.C., had the look of someone who knows where to search out the latest thing. She wore a denim skirt and a tank top adorned with a cartoon character of her own design - "It's like hip-hop meets Japanese anime," she said.
"I'm looking for something artsy and unique, something one-of-a-kind, something I can't find anywhere else," Bugg said. She picked out a Brooklyn Loves button and pinned it to her Harlemade canvas bag.
In fact, merchandise with a Brooklyn theme sells best at artez'n, as it does at many other stores. "People here are really loyal to their neighborhoods," said Jessica Furst, a 30-year-old Pratt graduate and graphic designer who opened the store in February. Her most popular items include pint glasses with images of Brooklyn landmarks and hip flasks that say Brooklyn Love.
Local artists provide most of the shop's merchandise on consignment. The store also offers art classes for adults, with a backyard film series in the works. Foot traffic, Furst said, can be low at times: "People are just beginning to explore Atlantic Avenue." But a new Target store that opened further up Atlantic at Fourth Avenue has drawn more locals to walk by.
Window shoppers are less essential across the street at the well-concealed Butter, run by Robin Weiss, 37, who used to work for Giorgio Armani, and her sister Eva, 39, formerly in advertising. A pioneer on the street, the store opened five years ago and benefits from frequent mentions in such magazines as W, Nylon, Marie- Claire and Lucky.
Best sellers this season include drapey, chocolate brown sweaters by American designer Rick Owens - $530 for a short version and $898 for ankle-length - and a gray wool wrap jacket that ties at the side by the Belgian Dries Van Noten - $830.
With merchandise like that, why hide behind opaque windows?
"We're not trying to be mysterious or anything," Weiss said. "It's to protect the clothing from sunlight."
On Fifth Avenue, shopkeepers have put plenty of thought into their store designs. The quiet and quaint gift shop Cog and Pearl has a dainty plum-colored façade trimmed in soft green, while Brooklyn Industries has a harder techno edge, with plate-glass windows, metallic trim and hip-hop on the soundtrack.
Products run the gamut, too. Bierkraft, a specialty food shop, flies in bread from the Poilane bakery in Paris, while Diane Kane, a lingerie shop, features everything from a short silk robe by Diane von Furstenberg for $265 to $22 cotton underwear emblazoned with the slogan "weapon of mass seduction."
At Matter, the contemporary furniture and home-accessories store, owner James Gray, a 36-year-old sculptor and furniture designer, seems to be challenging the owners of nearby Victorian brownstones to step outside their comfort zones of taste. Simple wooden no-handle tea cups at $6 apiece aren't much of a stylistic stretch, but a $375 vase with three bulbous spouts by designer Roderick Vos might be.
Like other shopkeepers, Gray is prepared to wait a few years to start turning a profit. "This isn't tried-and-true shopping, don't forget," he said. "My hope is that as this area develops, the shops don't change with it and become more generic."
Could the little shops be driven out by big national chains, which can offer goods at lower prices? Most neighborhood experts think the hole-in-the-wall storefronts on the streets in question are too small to accommodate retailers like Banana Republic or Pottery Barn.
But that doesn't mean the future is secure for hipster shopkeepers. Jonathan Bowles, research director of the Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit policy institute, said, "You do have the fear that if Park Slope starts to look too much like the Upper East Side, and I'm not saying we're there yet, some of these really creative entrepreneurs might want to go to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn."
Then again, the Brooklyn shops themselves may be incubators for larger enterprises to come. Gorilla Coffee is now sold at Whole Foods at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, and Brooklyn Industries has opened its own shop in another once-hot, up-and-coming neighborhood - SoHo.
A burgeoning area of artistic shops and boutiques has developed in Brooklyn, particularly along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. These are just a sample.
1. Zoe Papers (stationery) 215 Atlantic Ave.
2. Sir (fashion) 360 Atlantic Ave.
3. Kimera (fashion) 366 Atlantic Ave.
4. Bark (décor) 369 Atlantic Ave.
5. Breukelen (décor) 369Atlantic Ave.
6. Scarlet Ginger (fashion) 376 Atlantic Ave.
7. Butter (fashion) 389 Atlantic Ave.
8. artez'n (local artists) 444 Atlantic Ave.
9. Home and Abroad (décor) 487 Atlantic Ave.
10. Melting Pot (batik clothing) 492 Atlantic Ave.
11. Gumbo (children's) 493 Atlantic Ave.
12. Umkarna (fashion) 69 Fifth Ave.
13. Gorilla Coffee (coffee) 97 Fifth Ave.
14. Gallery 718 (art) 164 Fifth Ave.
15. Slang Betty (fashion) 172 Fifth Ave.
16. Cog and Pearl (gifts) 190 Fifth Ave.
17. Bierkraft (specialty foods) 191 Fifth Ave.
18. Extraordinary (décor) 195 Fifth Ave.
19. Brooklyn Industries (fashion) 206 Fifth Ave.
20. Beacon's Closet (clothing) 220 Fifth Ave.
21. Matter (décor) 227 Fifth Ave.
22. Diane Kane Inc. (lingerie) 229B Fifth Ave.
23. Eidolon (fashion) 233 Fifth Ave.
24. Kimera (fashion) 274 Fifth Ave.
SOURCE: ESRI, GDT
|December 31st, 2004, 07:22 PM||#4|
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Not sure what to think. It's good I guess, but it would be great if some areas could be transforemed into middle-class working family neighborhoods.
|September 27th, 2012, 09:43 AM||#5|
Join Date: Sep 2012
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Nice page and full of latest information i would like to say about it in the past few years, dozens of these storefront businesses started cropping up, first in Williamsburg. Then they fanned out to places like Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Fulton Street in Fort Greene, and, most recently, Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.