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Friday
Apr222011

R&A Discount Store Replaces Tornado-Damaged Signage, Sorta


When half of the signage that once belonged to the sprawling R&A Discount Clothing Center came down during the insane tornado that roared through the neighborhood last September, I was concerned that this long-shuttered store would now have a long-broken half-sign. Well apparently the Cabbad family, who owns the building (as well as R&A Cycles and R&A Hardware across the street) was on top of it from the very beginning. The sign was finally replaced earlier this week, and it approximates the color scheme of the original hand-painted sign. 

Pre-tornado

Post-tornado
"We spent a long time trying to figure out what to replace that sign with after it came down," said Albert Cabbad, who owns R&A Cyclery. "We originally planned on replacing it with a sign that said "Welcome to Park Slope," but that was vetoed by someone higher up. We just decided it was time to replace the sign and continue the tradition even though the store isn't around any more."

"Back in the 80s and 90s that store was really packed," he added. "It's where people did their shopping before places like Target and K-Mart came around."

Friday
Apr222011

Friday Foodporn: Blue Sky Bakery


Blue Sky Bakery, on Fifth Avenue between St. Marks and Bergen, may appear to be a mystery to those who have only walked past it after 2 PM. The reason? They're only open until then, opening up at 7:30 during the week and 8:30 during the weekends, but they happen to do breakfast treats better than just about anyone else around.


Owner Erik Goetze, a former advertising art director, decided to change his life around after a trip to Nepal and a winter in Telluride. He opened up the small bakery in 2003, and it's blossomed into a go-to spot for the $3 muffin and coffee special, croissants, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, savory stuffed puff pastry, and even homemade doggy treats. 


And those muffins? To die for. Creative flavors like blueberry banana bran, pumpkin apple walnut, carrot blueberry cream cheese, and wild blueberry have attaacted a wildly devoted fan base, and they're currently being sold wholesale to over 25 local restaurants and merchants throughout the city. 



The baked goods are all-natural, and a traditional approach to wholesome, traditional pastries and muffins has kept the shop selling out its wares every day by 2 PM. 


Blue Sky Bakery, 53 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-783-4123.

Friday
Apr222011

Wolf And Deer Bar Coming to 74 Fifth Avenue


Wolf and Deer, a new bar from the owner of Miriam restaurant, will be opening soon in the space formerly occupied by Total Wine Bar, on Fifth between St. Marks and Prospect. 


Owner Rafi Hasid, a Tel Aviv native who also owns successful restaurant Miriam (on the corner of Prospect), has designed a funky, steampunk-inspired space with a horseshoe bar, and they'll be offering a fully stocked bar with specialty cocktails and some small plates.

Signage is up, the garage-inspired facade has been installed, and all the fixtures are in place, so it looks like all systems are go for opening within a couple weeks. 

Friday
Apr222011

Salon Replacing Salon on Ninth Street


In your "Saw that coming" news of the day, it looks like "Hair Village Spa" will soon be replacing the Studio 97 Salon, directly above Brooklyn Flipsters on Seventh Avenue and Ninth Street. I guess we'll see if this one fares any better.

Thursday
Apr212011

Then and Now Thursday: Pete Hamill's Park Slope


A Drinking Life, the memoir written by legendary journalist and author Pete Hamill about coming of age in Park Slope and establishing himself as a newspaperman, is by far the best book I've read all year. In it, he paints a picture of the Park Slope of his childhood, choked with trolleys, blue-collar workers, street fights, pails of beer, and stickball. Hamill was born in 1935 in what's today called the South Slope, and lived here until the late 1950s. For anyone who's curious about what this neighborhood was like during this time, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy. 

Earlier today I set out to track down the houses Hamill grew up in, the schools he went to, and his old stomping grounds. 


Hamill spent the first six years of his life living in the top floor of the above house, at 471 14th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West. "I remember sitting on the stoop, watching Japanese beetles gnaw the ivy that covered the face of the brownstone next door," he writes. 


He attended kindergarten at PS 107, "down on the corner" of Eighth Avenue and 14th Street.


"In the fall of 1941, I entered First Grade at Holy Name of Jesus elementary school.... A white brick school building rose like a fortress before me, three severe stories off the ground." The school is located at 245 Prospect Park West.


In 1941 the Hamill family moved to the ground floor of this building, 435 13th Street, between Seventh and Eighth. 
"The colors of the world instantly changed. The new house was only one block away but it butted up against the dirty redbrick bulk of the old Ansonia Clock Factory... The dark blue shadow of the Factory (as everyone called it) fell upon the stoop and across the backyard... The rooms were larger and wider... and the rent was twenty-six dollars a month, including steam heat."

Hamill would play in the street with his brother and friends, and
"would wander down the street to look at the Alley, a wide noisy cobblestoned warren of ancient trucks and escaping steam and iron-barred windows. The Alley ran from Thirteenth Street to Twelfth Street, splitting The Factory into two unequal sections, and in the years of the war, it always seemed jammed with men at work."
 Today it's a part of the Ansonia Court apartment complex.

Seventh Avenue, north from Tenth Street, 1945.

At age 8 Hamill and family moved into a railroad flat at the top floor of the above building, at 378 7th Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets, 
"a tenement rising four ominous stories above the street. It was in the middle of the block,... with a butcher's shop on one side of the doorway and a fruit and vegetable store called Teddy's to the right... Poles and lines and the steel tracks gave the avenue the look of an artists' exercise in perspective, with diminishing lines flowing away into infinity, or its equal: Flatbush Avenue at one end of the avenue, Greenwood Cemetery at the other." 
At around this time Hamill started his first paper route, which took him down to Fourth and Fifth streets, "tree-lined streets of brownstones and white sandstone apartment houses... There were no fire escapes on these blocks, no stores or bars, and every house had a back yard." 


As street gangs like the Tigers and the South Brooklyn Boys took over the streets in the postwar years, Hamill found refuge here, 
"in the glorious palace of books called the Prospect Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, known to us simply as the Library. I went there every Saturday morning... following the familiar route along Seventh Avenue, my blood quickening as I crossed the trolley tracks on Ninth Street and passed the stately brownstones and the small synagogue and saw up ahead the wild gloomy garden of the Library.... The majestic mock Corinthian columns of the main entrance always made me feel puny but inside, behind walls as thick as any fortress, I always felt safe." 
The library, on Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue, is currently undergoing an extensive renovation.  

Ninth Street, looking west from Seventh Avenue, 1949.


In 1949, Hamill and his friends started hanging out around Bartel-Pritchard Square, at the foot of Prospect Park West.
"Off the square on one side there were two tall Corinthian columns that marked the entrance to Prospect Park; we called them the Totem Poles, or the Totes. They rose from cleanly carved granite bases, and in the evenings... I would walk up from Seventh Avenue and see the others, and we'd gather around the bases, sitting on them, looking at girls, cursing, smoking, making jokes, and drinking beer." 
Bartel-Pritchard Square, 1950.

Looking south towards Bartel-Pritchard Square, past the Sanders Theater, 1950.
Pete Hamill's Park Slope is at once familiar and yet completely changed. The vast majority of the buildings he mentions (including many more not described here) still exist, but the storefronts have been transformed so many times over the years that it's next to impossible to record their entire history. Reading a book like A Drinking Life makes you realize that in a neighborhood as diverse and historic as Park Slope, every building and street corner has lots of stories to tell. 

Historic Photos from Brooklyn's Park Slope, Merlis and Rosenzweig, 1999.