Monthly Archives: April 2009

Bespoke Bicycles: Now Open

bespoke bicycles

We were tipped off by General Greene back in February about a new bike shop slated to open on Lafayette near Fulton, and now Bespoke Bicycles is open for business!

The Lafayette spot was the first one owner Cassidy Vare checked out, which now features some gorgeous retro-style bikes in its front window.

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“We’re a full-service shop, so we offer repairs, tuneups, bikes and accessories,” explains Vare.  “Our focus is on commuting, errands and city bikes, so most of what we offer is on the practical, every-day end of the spectrum.”

Vare also hopes to expand his business to include used bikes in the near future.  Also, stay tuned for an interview feature about Cassidy and his city cycling suggestions!

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Bespoke Bicycles
64-B Lafayette Ave
718-643-6816
http://www.bespoke-bicycles.com/

Places to Eat with Kids: 67 Burger

67bur

67 Burger might be the easiest place to eat out with kids in Fort Greene.  The name says it all.  What kid doesn’t like a burger?  Mine, actually, but luckily there are veggie burgers for the vegetarians and meat-snubbing one year olds among us.  I don’t eat meat either, but my husband thinks their hamburger is one of the better of its kind in the neighborhood.

The format is this: choose a regular, veggie or turkey burger or grilled chicken cutlet.  Then choose a style, such as the 67 Burger with blue cheese and bacon, or the Cheese Lover’s with cheddar, jack and swiss, or the Greek with feta, olive tapenade and crispy artichokes.  All burgers come with tomato, lettuce, onion and pickles.  You can also order toppings a la carte.  There are a few salads to choose from as well.  And they make an extremely tempting milkshake.  It’s not on the menu, but I recommend ordering a “black and white” shake, made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.  They also have beer and wine.

The kids’ menu has the basics: grilled cheese, hot dog, kids’ hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken sandwich.  Each is served with curly fries.

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Aside from the menu, things that make this place kid-friendly are the accessibility—it’s a big space with plenty of room to maneuver a stroller.  The noise volume is usually pretty high, so you won’t feel self-conscious if you have a babbling baby or a talkative 3 year old along.  The floors are cement, so anything that gets spilled or dropped won’t be a big deal.  The sidewalk patio is an easy place to sit with all the distractions of the Lafayette/ Fulton intersection to keep kids entertained.  Waitstaff have always been friendly and patient with us too—the people we’ve met at 67 Burger seem to enjoy kids.

Have you eaten here with kids?  How was it?

High chairs—Yes

Space for strollers—Yes

Kids’ menu—Yes

Food delivery—No

Baby Changing Area—No

Outdoor space—Yes

Potential pitfalls—Why are floor drains always a toddler magnet?

67 Burger

Hours:

11:30 am – 10 pm Sunday-Thursday
11:30 am – 11 pm Friday-Saturday

67 Lafayette Ave. near Fulton St.
Tel. 718.797.7150
www.67burger.com

You Are Here: Christened

explanation of mural

Last night, I stopped by the community mural painted on the side of Tillie’s for its official dedication.  The mural, a colorful map of the neighborhood, was painted at the crossroads of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.  Local residents had the opportunity to paint a dot on the map representing their home.

It was a gorgeous, summery evening, and a lively and diverse crowd showed up. We were treated to desserts and drinks by Tillie’s owner Pat, and guests were still mingling an hour later, enjoying the weather and the warm light from the setting sun.

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ellie celebrates with a neighbor

i map my location

I was finally able to paint my own dot on the map! I missed last summer’s dotting as I was out of town. Ellie and Pat promise to hold a few more painting sessions this summer — stay tuned.

tish james shows off her dot

marking an art studio in the navy yard

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CHB Neighbor Profile: Meet Bob Bridges of Sister’s Community Hardware on Fulton Street

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Are you and Atchudta both residents of Clinton Hill?

Co-owners Atchudta Bakr and Bob Bridges both live in the neighborhood.   Bob says that living nearby improves his productivity by allowing him to take on certain tasks he couldn’t do otherwise.  Atchudta’s son Ali, who is the third owner in the store, lives in Kensington.

Describe your career/background.

Bob really strikes me as an intellectual and surely must be one of Brooklyn’s most thoughtful and articulate hardware guys. He and I started off talking about the dismal publishing business and what appears to be the imminent death of print media.   He says he stumbled into the hardware business in 1989, when the building business became tough.  He and a few friends had been renovating and managing buildings in Ft. Greene since the late ‘70s/early ‘80s.  He believes that this background helped him to understand how to sell hardware and construction products.  Interestingly, he wonders if he would have learned as much had he been in any other occupation.  Working in the hardware business demands a vast array of knowledge.  According to Bob, you’re constantly striving to learn both how to be a better businessperson and how to better communicate information to your customers.  Bob loves answering customers’ questions and helping them solve problems.  One of the biggest questions customers ask after discovering that he doesn’t carry a particular product is if he can recommend where else they can find it, information he usually has and is happy to share.

Please tell me about your business—how you got started, how you chose the location, and what makes your store unique.

The business was started in 2002 by Bob Bridges, Atchudta Barkr, and her son Ali and is now in its seventh year. At that time Atchudta had been working with the 1199 SEIU, the large union for health care workers, and wanted to start her own business.  Ali, who was working at a hospital, also wanted to try something entrepreneurial.  Meanwhile, Bob and a friend owned a hardware store on Myrtle and Adelphi for 15 years. Shortly after 9/11, Bob’s business partner wanted to go back to school and teach, which happened to be around the same time that Atchudta and her son were interested in starting a hardware business.  Bob and Atchudta had met in a community organization back in the early 1980s.

They did a survey of the neighborhood and concluded that a hardware store was really needed. Atchudta brought with her many years of retail experience. She grew up in Clinton Hill and ran a food co-op in the ‘70s at Fulton and Classon Ave, and her son worked with her during that time.

What do you understand by “community” hardware store?  Can you give me some examples of how you’ve been a supporter of community projects and groups?

The three owners collectively agreed on the store’s name.  Their goal was to connect to the community and to have the community be part of the store.  They’ve always welcomed feedback from customers on what products they should carry. For example, they now stock individual pieces of lumber in limited quantities. They designed the store to make it very hands-on and to allow customers, the majority of whom are laypeople and women, easy access to products.  You can even open packages to determine if the items are really what you want or need.  It’s clear to anyone who walks in that they have a strong emphasis on customer service and friendliness.  Bob, Atchudta, and Ali, along with their team of three employees, are very pleasant and happy to answer your questions.  And if they can’t help you, they will direct you to someone who can.  It’s hardly a surprise that they have a very loyal customer base given their almost small town neighborly touch that reminds me of my father’s hardware store in rural Maryland.

Bob says that they are still tweaking their business model and acknowledges that small hardware stores like theirs are a dying breed, especially since they continue to struggle against big box competitors like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  He and his co-owners, though, are committed to staying independent, and theirs is evidently a labor of love.  Most of his customers are laypeople rather than contractors, and the store is set up for the lay market, including being open long hours and on Sundays.  Bob emphasizes that lay people also want to shop local and tend to associate that with the quality of the neighborhood.  It’s no accident that they’ve consciously cultivated this market and are most successful there.  Customers typically check with them first before making a trip to Home Depot.

As for being involved in community organizations, they regret that they haven’t had the time as much in recent years.  The store is open seven days a week, and the owners tend to work very long hours.

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What is your opinion of the Fulton Street Business Improvement District (FSBID), which was formed last December?  Were you an advocate/supporter?  If so, how do you see the organization’s being instrumental in reviving the street like Myrtle has recently been revived?

Formerly one of the outspoken opponents to the BID, Atchutda currently supports it, but she hopes that it will entail more than just street cleaning.  She believes what Fulton Street business owners really need is technical assistance and help on how to market themselves more effectively.

Has the store been affected by the severe recession?  Have you noticed changes in customer purchases or foot traffic?

Bob sees about a 10% decline in sales over last year, something he attributes largely to the recession.  He’s noticed that there’s not as much project business right now.  People are evidently cutting back.  Rather than replace fixtures, for example, people are choosing to repair them if they can.  Usually around this time of year they’d see more move-ins and move-outs among renters like they have in the last three years particularly.  They also feel that the length of time that it took to repair Fulton Street affected them adversely.  During the construction, it appeared that customers were hindered from reaching the store and had trouble finding parking nearby.

They lease their space and are somewhat concerned about whether they’ll be able to afford to renew their lease when it comes due.  There are three employees besides the owners—one full-time, two part-time.  As with most small businesses, at any given time one of the owners is usually on the premises.

Have you organized any special promotions for Earth Day on April 22nd?  What about any spring specials featuring gardening supplies, etc.?

Bob said they don’t have any specific Earth Day promotions, but they’re trying to emphasize going green.  Starting this month they’ll be introducing more green products, and they’ve already begun their “green” window display.  Cleaning products and supplies will be among the new items. Also, customers who spend above a certain amount will receive big green reusable eco tote bags emblazoned with the words “Love Nature.” In fact, I was the first person to receive one of these!

With spring finally here, they’re also now featuring a range of gardening supplies from seeds and all sorts of tools to pots and citronella candles.

If you haven’t done so already, check them out soon!

Local Politicians Support Equal Rights

On Thursday, April 17, our Governor introduced a bill to legalize same sex marriage, likening the cause to the abolitionist movement of the 1800s.  He promised to personally lobby for passage of the bill, saying “we have a duty to make sure equality exists for everyone.”

So where do our State representatives stand on this important issue?  Hakeem Jeffries voted for it when when a similar bill was introduced in the State Assembly in 2007, and has voted for every measure supporting gay rights since, so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t support it.

I sent an e-mail to our State Senator, Valmanette Montgomery, on a recent evening to find out what her stand is on the issue.  I immediately got an auto-reply saying that correspondence is always answered by US mail, so I figured it would take a while to get a reply from her.  Then when I woke up the next day, I saw I had received an e-mail from Senator Montgomery at 3:24 AM with the following touching message:

“Dear Neighbors,

On April 16, 2009, New York State again started the long overdue process of providing equal civil rights to all its citizens. This is not a political issue; it is simple, equitable justice. The right to marry as two people see fit is a fundamental civil right that should be enjoyed by all New York’s citizens. It cannot be limited by legislation. It cannot be denied to any to accommodate the limiting exclusions of others. It is simply the right thing to do. This is what I have always believed, my entire life.

In 1977 when my friend Gary Deane became the first openly gay man to run for New York City Council, Ruby Nottage (at the time a District Leader) and I worked on his campaign. We worked hard because he was our friend and would have been a terrific City Council member. His narrow loss was the first of many steps toward making sexual orientation a non-issue in the public arena. Today we are taking another significant step for equality for all New Yorkers.

I am looking forward to receiving an award from the Lambda Independent Democrats next month, an organization started by Gary Deane, Peter Vogel, and other friends. And I am looking forward to working with State Senator Tom Duane, as I have always done before, to see that the civil right to marry is finally available to all New York citizens. It is simply the right thing to do.

And when that civil right is finally law, it will be a wonderful day. And I am very much looking forward to it!”

As am I, Senator Montgomery!!  I look forward to having equal civil rights as my heterosexual Clinton Hill neighbors!

Clinton Hill House Tour and Kelso of Brooklyn Open House

housetour

It’s time for the biennial neighborhood house tour!  According to Society for Clinton Hill’s website, it sounds like this year’s tour will include a lot more residential stops.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice to see the interiors of institutional buildings, especially when they are normally off-limits.  But personally, I prefer to see neighbors’ living spaces.  It’s so intriguing to get a glimpse into someone’s life.

Kelso of Brooklyn, the bewery on Waverly Avenue, will also be holding an open house and BBQ in conjunction with the house tour!  Owner Kelly Taylor and his crew are really nice, and the space is excellent.  Here’s the info:

One afternoon of beer tasting, some BBQ, music, and a tour or two of the brewery. Beer tasting free. Food $10 suggested donation for all you can eat BBQ. All proceeds and leftover food to City Harvest. RSVP to info@kelsoofbrooklyn please, so we can be sure to have enough food.

Sunday, May 3, 2009
2:00pm – 9:00pm
The Brewery
529 Waverly Ave (between Fulton and Atlantic)
Brooklyn, NY

kelso of brooklyn brewery

Brooklyn Blogfest 2009

It’s time once again for the ever-growing Brooklyn Blogfest!  This year’s event looks to be the most diverse and interesting yet — the program is full of new faces, and will include breakout sessions based on blog-type.

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May 7, 7pm
powerHouse Arena, DUMBO

www.brooklynblogfest.com

It was the very first Blogfest that inspired me to start this site.  If you have a blog, love blogs, or are thinking about starting a blog, come by to network, learn and meet others obsessed with blogging.

Epoca: Closed?

This just in the ol’ inbox:

Hi Clinton Hill Blog!
I think that Epoca Restaurant may have closed?  Am I losing my mind or (gulp) right?  Let me know if you have any info.

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I passed by on Sunday afternoon during prime brunch time, only to find the gate down.  The website is also down, but I couldn’t find anything online about the place closing down.

Anyone have info?