The Brooklynians are way out ahead of me on all of this, as usual, but some of the latest changes seemed worth recapping here nonetheless:
- Cent'Anni, a homestyle Italian place just south of Sterling on Franklin, opened last night. They don't seem to have a menu or webpage or any such things available for linking yet, so we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Anybody been in? Thoughts on the food? The service? The back garden (which was one of the reasons the owners/realtors held out for a tenant willing to pay $7,500 a month, from what I heard through the grapevine)?
- Pulp & Bean II, across the parkway, is getting ready to open in a few weeks, and they're already hiring. Stop into Pulp & Bean or Bob & Betty's on the north side of Eastern if you'd like to apply. They're hoping to hire locally (here's hoping that other new businesses opening along Franklin will follow their lead).
- Finally, Kelso Restaurant, which has operated under different owners on Franklin since 1969, rolled its shutters down for the last time sometime last week, after announcing their plans to do so a few weeks ago. This is sad news, for several reasons. First, the food was delicious (here's their Yelp page, here's ILFA ranting about it, and here's a post from Eating in Translation back in 2008). Secondly, it was affordable; lunch was around $5, a big meal at brunch or dinner clocked in under $10. Finally, Kelso was the last Panamanian restaurant on Franklin, which was once the center of Panamanian immigrant life in the United States. The Panamanian Independence Day parade runs down Franklin every October, and there was even an effort back in 2010 to have Franklin co-named "Panama Way." While the neighborhood was declining as a Panamanian enclave (people moving up and out, etc) long before the current wave of gentrification, and their closing has passed relatively quietly, this would, at some level, be similar to the last Italian restaurant on Mulberry Street closing its doors. I hope they'll continue to host the parade along Franklin.
Reports are that Kelso, like many longtime local businesses, was priced out. The same is true for the bodega on the corner of Park and Franklin, whose owners were recently told that they would be replaced, if things go to plan, by a bank branch. Meanwhile, the former Beauty Boutique space one block up is being rented, with the empty lot next door thrown in as a potential outdoor space, for upwards of $12,000. Critics focus a lot on the residential displacement that comes with gentrification, and rightly so, but commercial displacement is connected to residential turnover. Places like Kelso, local bodegas, and salons aren't just retail outlets. They're meeting places and community institutions, sites for social interaction as well as economic transaction, where you might be able to pay tomorrow for what you buy today, or stop and chat with an old friend, or just hang out and wait for the rain to let up. When places like this disappear, the communities that congregated there dissipate, too.
None of these changes will surprise anyone who's lived along Franklin for more than a few weeks, of course, and no doubt there'll be several new openings over the next weeks and months to catch our attention and start these conversations anew. But I wanted to pause and mark the closing of Kelso, if only because of its run of over 40 years as an anchor of a community that is passing every day into memory.