Search HPS:

This area does not yet contain any content.

Business of the Week: Chair-Man, 176 Fifth Avenue


"I don't sell chairs any more," said Jack Russo, the friendly, softspoken proprietor of Chair Man, the gift store on Fifth Avenue between Lincoln and Degraw. "I used to, though."
Russo got his start working in a chair store on the Bowery, and in 1982 he opened up a store of his own, first above today's Connecticut Muffin on First and Seventh, and later on Seventh between First and Garfield, in a space that's remained vacant since he moved into the current location last March.
"Customers come in and tell me that they still have the rocking chair I sold them almost 30 years ago!" he said. "Over time, the neighborhood shifted, though. The guy who did our repair work passed away, and gas prices skyrocketed, which made shipping difficult."
As the neighborhood shifted, so did the Chair Man. Russo has created one of the most enjoyable places to shop in the neighborhood, and if there's a store that smells better in the entire city I have yet to find one. "I sell a lot of stuff that smells great," said Russo. The smell of incense, candles, and scented oils merge with relaxing instrumental music to immediately put the customer at ease.
There's a sign in the door that says "Browsers Welcome," and the variety of merchandise certainly makes for an entertaining browse.  Small gifts, Brooklyn-themed merchandise, and clothing join imported items like Japanese Kokeshi dolls in the store, and all the merchandise is curated by Russo himself. While it may be easy to write off the merchandise as trinkets and knick-knacks, they're anything but. "'Trinkets' make it sound like it's cheap and worthless," he said. "These aren't cheap or worthless."
While passers-by may bunch the store in with the vintage shops that dominate this stretch of northern Fifth Avenue, nothing in the store is vintage.  "My store sure smells a lot better than those used clothes stores!" he said. "The scents, the music, it's all part of the ambiance. This has always been a relaxing place for myself."
"About half of my customers are tourists from all over the world, and the other half are those who just stroll in," said Jack. "I have no clue how the tourists find me, but I'm happy that they do!"
Russo has made a small effort to re-name the store Gift Man, but he's perfectly content keeping the name he's always used. "It's like the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, I guess," he said. "Work Bench doesn't sell workbenches, Door Store doesn't sell doors, so what's in a name?"
Chair Man Gift Man, 176 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-499-0721.



The Park Slope Week in Review: 5/9/11 - 5/13/11

The soon-to-open Couleur Cafe
On Monday, word got out that Falafilo, the new Falafel/ Middle Eastern place on Union right near Fifth, will be moving into the old Mama Rosa Space, located right next door. It was also announced that the Great Food Truck Gathering of 2011 (not the actual name) will be taking place in Grand Army Plaza NEXT SUNDAY.

Tuesday brought another announcement, the Prospect Park Bandshell's 2011 lineup of summer shows. I also got a behind-the scenes preview of Bicycle Habitat, opening this weekend on Fifth between 10th and 11th.

Wednesday brought word that Clear, the odd little wifi store on Fifth between St. Marks and Warren, had shuttered. We also got a glimpse inside the new burger joint coming to Flatbush by Sixth. Not much progress there.

On Thursday all hell broke loose with Blogspot, so these links may still not work: One reported that Asha Veza, the Indian-inspired clothing store on Fifth between St. Marks and Prospect that donated all proceeds to helping disadvantaged Indian women, had closed. The next was a follow-up to that, explaining how while the store was closed, the show will be on the road for the summer and it'll move back into Brooklyn come fall.

Friday the 13th brought news that Couleur, a new French cafe, will be opening in the former Ajami Hookah Lounge space, on Seventh between 15th and 16th. Looks like it'll be a nice addition to the neighborhood. I was also curious about the odd "Pub" signage on a house on Prospect Avenue, but lo and behold, it was once a pub!


Friday Foodporn: Bierkraft's Cheese

While Bierkraft, on Fifth between Union and Berkeley, is best known for (of course) its beer, the selection of cheeses behind the display case is equally satisfying. There are about 25 varieties ranging from fresh goat to aged Gouda, and the salespeople can help you pair one with their variety of meats, which range from fresh-roasted turkey to salami and cured ham. Layered onto bread with housemade toppings like pickled fiddleheads and roasted garlic, it's a sandwich combination made in heaven, best enjoyed in their new backyard.

Bierkraft, 191 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-230-7600.


The Mysterious "PUB" of Prospect Avenue

There's an odd sign hanging on a house on Prospect Avenue between Sixth and Seventh, and I can't figure it out for the life of me. Take a look:

Only one of the two panels it's designed to hold is installed, but the word "PUB" faces inward. You can barely make it out when viewed from the other side:

It's pretty obvious that there's no pub in this building, unless it's a speakeasy (which would make the sign a little superfluous). Maybe the homeowner just found it somewhere and decided to hang it up? No clue.


French Cafe Coming to 435 Seventh Avenue

Couleur Cafe, a French-style coffee shop, is headed to the space formerly occupied by Ajami Hookah Lounge, on Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets.

The owner, French native Murat Ozcan, tells me that his cafe will serve organic coffee along with pastries, salads, sandwiches, soups, and daily specials like Beef Bourguignon.

Along with partner Francois Ronget, he also owns Lucky's Cafe in the Village, and is dedicated to using only fresh, organic ingredients. The cafe will host community events like movie nights, and a goal is to make the cafe a prime gathering place for the South Slope community. 

Couleur Cafe should be open within a couple weeks.