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Butter Lane Gets Signage, Re-Opening Soon

Butter Lane, the East Village-based cupcake shop that popped up briefly last month in the former King of Cupcakes space (on Seventh between Fourth and Fifth Streets), has installed some signage as they prepare to re-open, this time permanently. 

As you may recall, the space's landlord, Ricky's NYC, shut down the underwhelming King of Cupcakes after five months in operation, at a considerable loss. They took a lot more care in choosing the next tenant, and gave Butter Lane a two-week test drive to make sure that it was well-received. It was, and has been closed for the past month as paperwork is worked out and long-term plans are put in place. 

An employee at Butter Lane's Village outpost couldn't confirm a re-opening date, but judging by the addition of signage it's not far off.


Business of the Week: Get Reel Video, 70 Fifth Avenue


Owner Christine Kim (l.) with manager Sarah Silver


In this age of Netflix, Hulu, and rampant video store closings, it's refreshing to find one that still gets it right, with friendly, passionate, knowledgeable employees and a diverse, expertly curated selection. Get Reel Video, on Fifth Avenue and St Marks Place, is the only remaining video store in the North Slope, and it has become a haven for film buffs and casual viewers alike.

Owner Christine Kim opened its doors in July 2005, just as mega-chains like Blockbuster began to give way to the convenience of Netflix.

"It just seemed like something fun, something that was needed in the neighborhood," said Kim. "Netflix wasn't such competition then, and the neighborhood back then was more artsy, with more people who appreciated art-house films."

Where there was a desire for lesser-known films, Get Reel certainly delivered. While you can find your share of new releases in stock, it's the indies, documentaries, and art house films that have put the store on the map, as well as the way its films are categorized.

While chains like Blockbuster classify films according to genre, Kim has laid out her films based on cinephile-friendly categories like Directors, Criterion, "Movies You Probably Don't Know," and Monthly Theme (this month it's "Path of Life").

Although the demographic has changed slightly in the past five years, indie films still comprise about half of all movies rented, and Christine has a feeling why the store has such a loyal following.

"Netflix still has his drawbacks," she explained. "There's no customer interaction, there's no customer service, and there's no instant gratification. When you're in the mood for a movie, you can get it immediately if you come to the video store."

Instant gratification is only one aspect of the store's success, though. "What really keeps Get Reel in business is my staff," said Kim. "They're incredibly knowledgeable, they all have a background in film, and they've really created a community."


It's clear from looking around that the staff really does know their stuff. The shelves are dotted with notecards pointing out staff picks and recommendations, and chatting with them is like taking a film school class.


"Becoming a member here is more than just joining a video store," explained Kim. "It's like joining a community film club. People come here to hang out, meet, and chat about film. Sometimes I come in and see people sitting on the floor! If we had more space we'd have a coffee shop in here too."

While business is still brisk, Christine knows that the good times may not last forever, especially with rents expected to rise as the Barclays Center nears completion just a few blocks away.

"We're taking it one day at a time," she said. "We're hoping to stay, but it depends on the customers. We have to stay on our toes and be creative."

"When I ask people why they shop here, they tell me that it's because of the experience," she said. "It's like going to the bookstore. You can browse, read reviews, chat, and get recommendations. Everyone says to increase prices, but I never will. I just want people to see movies."


Get Reel Video, 70 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-638-0120.



The Park Slope Week in Review: 5/16/11 - 5/20/11

On Monday it was reported that the much-anticipated Dumplings and Things on Fifth between Fifth and Sixth had opened, and it certainly lives up to expectations (seriously, try the pork belly bao). I also shared a bunch of photos from the killer Fifth Avenue street fair from the day before.

On Tuesday I was able to sneak a peek inside the new Blueprint Cocktail Bar coming to the old Long Tan space, and it's looking quite classy. And in your "saw that coming" news of the week, a hair salon will be moving into the space last occupied by Sea World Fish Market, next to Timboo's on Fifth.

Wednesday brought the official release of the Here's Park Slope app for Android and iPhone. Check it out and let me know what you think, it's got all my blog posts as well as a comprehensive listing of just about every business in the neighborhood. I also had a chat with Murat Ozcan, the owner of Couleur Cafe, the French cafe moving into a spot on Seventh by Sixteenth, and he tells me that it should be opening on Tuesday.

On Thursday, a look behind the scaffolding of 79-81 Seventh Avenue, soon to be home to a Petco, revealed that construction is almost complete. Also, remember that odd little Clear Wifi store on Fifth near St. Marks that closed last week? It's going to be replaced by a Boost Mobile store. Yawn.

In other lamentable "coming soon" news, on Friday I spoke to Mark Ravitz, the guy responsible for the crazy "drips" on the front of his building at 200 Seventh Avenue and the wild little gallery in the ground floor space (he also did set design for Bowie's tours in the 70s- seriously an awesome dude), and he told me why the gallery has been cleared out: the space has been leased by MetLife, for mortgage company offices. Boo. Also, Dolly Lyla, the funky little vintagey shop on the far north end of Seventh Avenue, has closed up and will be re-opening in a few months on Degraw Street.


Friday Foodporn: Der Kommissar

When a restaurant that features only one type of food opens, it's always a risky endeavor. If not done properly, such a narrow focus could easily backfire. Thankfully, Der Kommissar, the Austrian-style sausage joint on Fifth between Fifteenth and Sixteenth that opened last month, succeeds with flying colors. 

The tiny space has no kitchen, just a flat top used to brown up the sausages, which come in varieties like bratwurst (above), käsekrainer (stuffed with cheese), andouille, and weisswurst. On the supply side, owners Gary Baldwin and his wife Monica Wuhrer (who also run the fire-damaged Open Source Gallery) along with partner Alex Darsey have decided to go with two of the best around, Queens-based Karl Ehmer and Hartmann's upstate. All sausages come on a perfectly toasted roll, along with a side of carraway-flecked sauerkraut and dill pickles. Sides (naschen) include a couple cheese spreads, pretzels, and potato salad. 

There's also a lengthy selection of beers, wine, and schnapps. The focus stays European, with offerings like Gösser and Reissdorf Kölsch, although with some local beers like Lagunitas Little Sumpin and Sixpoint Harbinger sneak in. 

Der Kommissar is open every day from noon until "late," and is a great place to drop into when you're in the mood for some expertly prepared sausage and quality beer in a chill setting. There's also a take-out window up front for sausages on the go. There's only a handful of seating, so if you plan on dropping by on a weekend, get there early!

Der Kommissar, 559 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215. 718-788-0789.


Met Life Mortgage Offices to Take Over Mark Ravitz's Seventh Avenue Gallery

For the past year, artist Mark Ravitz, who owns 200 Seventh Avenue and has used its facade to display his unique "drips" since the early 1980s, has been using the ground floor of his building as a gallery for his art. His intricate window displays, which changed frequently, were a wild diversion while walking down the avenue (especially last October, when his ghoulish designs for a Studio 54 Halloween party were on display). 

Ravitz's display windows, last year
While walking past the building (between Second and Third Streets) yesterday, though, I noticed that the gallery had been cleared out, and his art had been removed from the windows. 

I gave Ravitz (who is also a world renowned set designer) a call this morning, and he informed me that the storefront had indeed been rented. "It's a long time coming, because I didn't want a nail salon or food in the ground floor," he said. So who's the lucky buyer? It'll be a branch of MetLife's mortgage company, he told me. 

Sad that with such a creative building owner, a more creative ground floor tenant couldn't be found.