Sunday, October 25, 2009
Opening Night at The Pulp and The Bean
Despite some truly wretched weather, Tony Fisher threw a great party on Saturday night to open his new coffee shop at 805 Franklin. Flanked by family members and an able staff, Fisher dolled out free coffees, teas, and a wide assortment of baked goods to local folks and a few Brooklyn luminaries (Marty Markowitz stopped by to offer his congratulations and a Borough Proclamation). The awning and sign look great (Fisher's brother explained that they held a contest online for the design), and the snug space is cozy and warm inside the french doors. Most importantly, the food and drink tasted fantastic--early returns suggest that the brownies and chai are going to be hot sellers. The hours, tentatively, are 6 AM - 10 PM.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the night was watching customer after longtime customer come in to congratulate Fisher, each offering a variation on the same theme. People had moved to the area, gone into his supermarket looking for something, asked about it, and he'd ordered it for them (in my case, it was black pepper). Their stories served as a reminder that while neighborhood change has come, and continues to come, quickly on Franklin Avenue, it need not be an impersonal, unconnected process of turnover.
Human interaction, after all, is a necessary feature of the economic transactions that drive such a local change, whether you call the opening of two new coffee shops in one week gentrification or revitalization. On Franklin, residents who've been here 15 years or 15 months (I fall in the latter category), benefit from the presence of community-minded merchants whose ventures have made conscious efforts to serve a diverse and changing population, and to build neighborhood solidarity. Both Tony and his brother said that The Pulp and The Bean is "all about the community," and if it runs any way their supermarket does, it will be. Down the street at the Breukelen Coffee House, Jay (one of the co-owners) sees his place serving a similar function. "I've had people coming in from right over on St. Francis who I'd never seen, coming in for coffee. I've meet probably fifty, sixty, people, and they've met people. There are times when people cross the street because they see someone coming, but now they're both crossing the street to the coffee shop. And then it's like 'You like coffee? I like coffee!' and it starts a conversation." As if to make Jay's point, a patron on her way out broke in to say "Thank you so much for being here."
These newest shops join places like Franklin Park (host to the Crown Heights CSA and the Franklin Park Reading Series) and Bristen's Eatery (sponsor of the Franklin Flea) in promoting not just themselves but the Avenue. Their work won't make tensions brought about by rapid change disappear, but it goes a long way towards making Franklin Avenue a nice place to live, and not just rest your head.