Smooches

Penelope Giaouris, Owner of Smoochie Baby. Che Stipanovich, Photographer.  Max, 3. PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTOPHER WAHL

By Shana Liebman

Smoochie Baby almost didn’t make it here. Penelope Stipanovich, a Toronto native, originally chose to open her innovative kids store in her hometown where her family has been in the manufacture and retail business for years. Thankfully, she and her husband eventually decided to find a more suitable home for Smoochie (and themselves)—Williamsburg. “There is a vibrancy and an energy here that Toronto lacks.  I have heard people in Toronto say that a place has a ‘Williamsburg vibe.’ That kind of sums it up.”

And Williamsburg is kissing right back. The Berry Street store, which opened in 2009, is bright, modern and tasteful “with an urban edge & a rock n’ roll sensibility,” says Stipanovich. “Mostly well-priced American brands and very few imports.” And a brilliantly placed, kid-tuned TV makes it a lot easier to shop.

Penelope Giaouris, Owner of Smoochie Baby. Che Stipanovich, Photographer. Max, 3. PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTOPHER WAHL

Smoochie Baby (what Stipanovich and her husband called their son Max when he was a baby) is expertly stocked with gorgeous, practical stylish clothes and the kind of smart gear you can really use—a wearable blanket big enough for a one-year-old for example. There are no garish colors or cheap plastic; the books and toys are attractive and educational. They even stock Nevermind Your Ps & Qs. The Punkrock Alphabet.

Stipanovich’s current favorite item is Shwings. “I’m obsessed with Shwings. They are little wings that attach to any sneaker. They make any shoe ‘fly.’” She also loved the one-of-a kind Lola & James dresses and tees made from vintage rock tees, especially one black tank dress made from a Rolling Stones 1972 tour tee with purple tulle skirting around the bottom. “I cried when the company closed down.”

Smoochie carries a line of bath and skincare products for mommy and baby that is all natural and made by Stipanovich’s mother-in-law up in Canada. Also from Canada, the cutest straw fedoras for the summer. Another popular hat is the lumberjack beanies with a removable crochet beard that they couldn’t keep in stock. For spring, hand-made Majorcan sandals are on the way. In other words, you want this woman dressing your kid.

“We are working on a tight little private label collection of basics,” says Stipanovich and this spring we will be launching our new website with a fresh new look and a lot more product.” Is a second store in the works?  “It’s still a couple of years away but it will most definitely be in the ‘hood.”

 

Great Young Designers Flock to Brooklyn—Ferris

Partners in business, the young designers wear their creations. (R to L) Taylor Conlin wears a Ferris sweatshirt ($55) under a Ferris custom jacket ($130); Taylor Spong models a Ferris custom button down ($120); and Andrew Livingston sports a Ferris beanie ($10) Photo by Colby Blount (cblountphotography.com)

Partners in Ferris, (R to L) Taylor Conlin wears a Ferris sweatshirt ($55) under a Ferris custom jacket ($130); Taylor Spong models a Ferris custom button down ($120); and Andrew Livingston sports a Ferris beanie ($10) Photo by Colby Blount (cblountphotography.com)

By Francesca Moisin

Great Young Designers Flock to Brooklyn
What they lack in experience they make up for with raw talent and determination. The owners of Ferris (ferrisnewyork.com), Williamsburg’s funky new clothing shop, may be young, but A.J. Livingston, 20; Taylor Conlin, 21; and Taylor Spong, 22, are reinventing men’s fashion while most of their peers are still in college. Their cozy 600-foot space— previously a pet store before they gutted it, painted over a giant cat mural, and filled it with furniture built by Spong— boasts an eclectic mix of vintage garments and trademark Ferris apparel.

San Diego native Livingston designs most of the signature pieces, like “The Borough of Life” fleece ($50) bearing the motto “Made for Destruction,” or the beloved “Underdog” T-shirt ($37), featuring a prancing pup logo. Apart from providing a livelihood, handcrafted T-shirts brought Conlin and Livingston together (Spong and Livingston have been pals since high school), and they’re partially responsible for why the business exists today. “I was at a Parsons party last October when I noticed this guy wearing a sick shirt that I could tell he’d made,” says Conlin of Livingston. “We started talking and realized we both had clothing backgrounds.”

Much of their experience was garnered through apprenticeships. Conlin, a Massachusetts transplant, learned to sew and fit clients while interning in the Harvard Square shop of a family friend. “Cambridge has a long history of classic tweeds and preppy designs, so I familiarized myself with those styles,” he says. Livingston also worked retail back in California, and although Spong came to the business with no former apparel knowledge, all three read constantly about fashion while also taking parttime college courses. “We’re willing to try anything,” says Livingston. “Most of what we know about our craft, we learned because we had to.”

Their youthful energy is palpable—and contagious. Banks provided loans, Livingston’s dad, a former pro surfer, sold old boards on Craig’s List, and Conlin’s parents agreed to funnel his college fund into a new reserve, flushing the boys with enough cash to open shop in July. Since then, positive word of mouth has spread, in part because of their revolutionary custom service. Find a beloved old item in the back of your closet that’s horribly out of style yet impossible to part with, and the two Taylors—Conlin and Spong—will swap the lining, rework the collar, or in some way strip the garment to make it au courant again. “The process takes one to four weeks and, within reason, there’s no revamping we won’t do,” says Spong. Other vintage pieces sourced from secret spots around New York and Massachusetts are deconstructed and reassembled according to the artists’ own specifications. The “Hi Flyers” shirt ($165), for example, was Frankensteined from four different materials, including an original 1950s baseball jersey. It took over 12 hours to create.

This circular process of preserving the old and giving the new an antique patina lies at the core of Ferris’ philosophy. “Fashion can keep going around, unbroken, just like a Ferris wheel,” says Livingston. The name is also a tribute to Ferris Bueller, the ultimate free spirit. “We love that character’s youthful energy,” says Conlin. “He’s the embodiment of making each day count.”

Ferris
243 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
www.ferrisnewyork.com
(917) 751-7268

 

Mary Meyer Clothing

Designer Mary Meyer (middle) with associates Emma Kadar-Penner (left) manager of Friends Vintage (MM), and Stephanie Levy, MM photo manager, in Bushwick. Photo by Colby Blount (cblountphotography.com)

Designer Mary Meyer (middle) with associates Emma Kadar-Penner (left) manager of Friends Vintage (MM), and Stephanie Levy, MM photo manager, in Bushwick. Photo by Colby Blount (cblountphotography.com)

By Francesca Moisin

Like many great success stories, this was born of necessity. Mary Meyer didn’t always want to design clothes. As a student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, she studied printmaking, weaving, dyeing, welding, and woodworking before graduating with a degree in painting. It was only after school that fate and need collided to alter Meyer’s future. “I was broke and couldn’t afford to buy the things I wanted, so I started making them,” says the 34-year old Williamsburg resident. “People would ask where I’d found my top, and upon learning I’d made it, they’d want one too.”

A small factory soon sprouted in her living room, and Meyer began to create custom dresses and shirts for friends. The Northern California native founded her company, Mary Meyer Clothing (marymeyerclothing.com), in 2005 before migrating East one year later. These days, with the exception of a few pieces fabricated at a midtown Manhattan workshop, all MMC designs are handmade in a factory near Coney Island, printed in Greenpoint, and dyed and processed in Bushwick. “It’s important to support my community,” says Meyer. “Because production is local, I can also monitor working conditions to maintain healthy environments and ensure garments are sewn correctly.”

Such dedication to detail has paid off. Along with her own 56 Bogart Street shop in Bushwick, major retailers including Urban Outfitters, Bona Drag, and International Playground now carry Meyer’s attire. The typical client—female, 22 to 35 years old, attending school or working as a young professional—buys a MMC garment because it boasts the perfect blend of sexiness and casual ease. “She loves cute clothes, but she also likes to be comfortable,” explains Meyer.

Case in point: the gray silk Cher Dress ($253), named in honor of Cher Horowitz, Alicia Silverstone’s character in the 1995 film Clueless. The baby-doll cut and big front buttons flatter any shape, while the low neck and three-quarter sleeves add a splash of sass. The 90s—that infamous era of plaid mini-skirts, high-waisted jeans, belly tops, flannel, and grunge—have long inspired Meyer. “I’m a kid of the 90s,” she says. “I grew up on Venice Beach listening to Jane’s Addiction and loving River Phoenix, so I guess it’s in my blood.” Her favorite item in her own closet is still a pair of matte green Doc Martens from the early part of the decade.

In addition to vintage fashion trends, almost anything can spark the artist’s active imagination. “Markings in cement, a beach, African textiles, Japanese dye techniques, bridges, rock and roll—whenever I see a cool shape or color, I get an idea,” says Meyer. These impressions are often transformed into paintings or custom prints, which are then transferred to a top or accessory, such as the distinctive two-tone cotton Slash Scarf ($97).

“The skills I learned in college are still a big part of what I do today, so in a way I’ve come full circle,” muses Meyer—and she’s nowhere near done yet. The New Year will see an expansion from two to four seasonal collections, and fellow retro fiends will rave over Friends Vintage, a line launched with colleague Emma Kadar Penner. “It’s amazing how much you can get done in one week in New York!” says Meyer.

Life is Messy—LifeGunk.com—A New Social Network, Straightens It Out

Javan Joel founder of LifeGunk has 16,000 members on his social networking site, so far. Photo by Eddy Vallante

Javan Joel founder of LifeGunk has 16,000 members on his social networking site, so far. PHOTO BY BEN ROSENZWEIG (benrosenzweig.com)

By Marianne Shaneen

Welcome to what might just be the next big thing in the social networking landscape: LifeGunk. Launched in Greenpoint in January 2011, LifeGunk aims to be the ultimate life enhancement tool. It is unique because it combines several powerful elements; it’s a life management system that helps users organize their lives, and it’s a social network allowing them to connect and collaborate in accomplishing their goals.

LifeGunk’s founder, 34-year-old Javan Joel, was inspired to create it after finding that he was organizing his highly goaloriented life in so many different ways—on scraps of paper, in Outlook at his office, on his smartphone, on his laptop, in his notebook—that it was becoming impossible to keep track of it all. What began as a way to manage all of his ideas, goals, tasks, and appointments in one central, easily accessible system, eventually grew into something much bigger.

Javan, who gave up his very successful web development company to focus on developing LifeGunk, has lots of ideas. He wanted to develop a way to share his ideas and goals with his friends and family that would allow people to see, help contribute to, and perhaps even join each other in reaching their goals.

No goal is too big or too small for LifeGunk—whether you’re trying to lose weight, become a millionaire by age 40, travel the world, develop a business idea, or just organize a group to go to a movie. The main feature of LifeGunk is the “AGI” tool, an acronym for Activities, Goals, and Ideas.

According to Javan, it is based on the way that an idea develops: when you have an Idea, it can turn into a Goal, and a goal can turn into an Activity. When users set up a free account, they open to their AGI dashboard, where they can see their daily lists, favorites, conversations, and a calendar where they input goals and target dates for reaching them. The AGIs are always private unless you choose to share them. Javan himself has over 100 AGIs, with some private, and some collaborations. Users can share AGIs and send invites to join their activities and brainstorm ideas.

According to Javan, “When you’re on Facebook, you’re mostly bored and just passively reading status updates. You’re not really doing anything productive. With LifeGunk, you log on to be productive, to share your progress, to see how your friends and family are progressing and help them to be productive. It’s meant to help you connect with others and get involved in each others’ lives on a deeper level.” It’s this combination of tools to personally organize all aspects of life, and the ability to collaborate with others to track your progress and reach your goals, that makes LifeGunk unique—and potentially poised to be the next social networking phenomenon.

Javan explains, “Say someone wants to lose 20 pounds. If they make their goal public to me, I can comment and wish them good luck. Or I can go further, and make a suggestion or refer them to someone I know who can help them. Or I can go even further and join them in that goal. If I do that, then we can make a combined effort, and I actually have a vested interest in helping them out because I want to accomplish this goal too, and that’s where LifeGunk really stands out, because of the collaborative aspect. It gives you tools to collaborate on something productive.”

For Javan, LifeGunk can turn something from “just being an idea in my head to becoming a real-world execution, to making it really happen. Most of the time we have a goal, we write it down or keep it in our head and forget about it, and years later we look back and say, oh I still haven’t done it. I’m really the type of person that believes that when you put something out there it comes back to you in some way, but you have to put it out there. So this is a tool to really help you put it out there, and have a way for people to help each other make it a reality.”

One of the most significant differences from a networking site like Facebook is that LifeGunk is designed to respect the privacy of its users. As explained by Javan, “Unlike Facebook, which is public by default, LifeGunk is private by default. For myself, as the guy who started it, I knew I was going to put really personal stuff onto my profile, about my own ideas and goals, and I wanted to protect myself as well.” Everyone’s personal information is encrypted. There are strong privacy settings that will allow you to choose how to unlock your personal data, who you want your data shared with, or if you want information totally public.

LifeGunk is free for the average user, but will involve a charge for premium services for businesses and project management, depending on how much space a user needs.

That’s why it’s not dependent on advertising, and why Javan assures users that it will not allow data mining. LifeGunk will eventually allow targeted advertising, but according to Javan, “We only want advertising that is useful to the user. Our goal is that a user never feels it is intrusive”. Users will be able to opt out of seeing any advertising altogether, if they wish. Javan explains, “Another beautiful feature of LifeGunk is that with most other sites, when you click on an ad, you are usually led out of the site and onto the advertiser’s page. LifeGunk will only allow advertisers that set up a group page within the system. If you want to lose weight and an ad for a gym in your area pops up, you can click on it and it will take you to its LifeGunk group page, so you can see who else is part of it, and join activities right then and there.”

For Javan, “websites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we communicate. Unfortunately that has come at a price. We have lost the human interaction that we were once accustomed to. Our ‘connectedness’ has brought us more disconnectedness.” The social networking that LifeGunk allows has a purpose: to actively facilitate offline, real-world interactions around life-enhancing activities.

“One of the main reasons I invented LifeGunk is because so many sites annoy me. They’re not private, they waste time. They have bullying. I wanted to focus on positive things, goals, and enhancing productivity,” Javan says. To ensure this, he is developing a ‘thumbs down’ button. If somebody puts up something offensive, and it receives enough thumbs down, it is removed. He’s also developing a new feature that gives each user a store of ‘kudo points.’ If something gets enough thumbs down, it can lose kudo points, and if you give someone a kudo point you give it from your pool, so you have to really like it. Eventually, users can rack up points and get rewards for them. Since everyone that can give thumbs down or kudos are people you are personally connected to, Javan believes this will be a way to keep a positive atmosphere for the LifeGunk community.

LifeGunk currently has about 16,000 members, and Javan is projecting that in about six months to a year it could really take off. His sister, Dishan Elise, owns a gym in Greenpoint called Human@Ease, and she’s the president of LifeGunk.

Javan’s father, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar software development company, is also actively involved. They chose Greenpoint for their offices because it’s “a hip and happening area and we both love it. It’s good having our businesses here because we are surrounded by creative artists and we feel that it’s a hub for a lot of great things coming out of New York, now and in the future.”

For Javan, who is very interested in motivational learning, LifeGunk expresses his belief in life enhancement. People are excited about it because “it fulfills a basic inherent human need to be social, loved, connected, and to be validated by our community.”

At press time, Javan rolled out a brand new product designed to help small businesses and freelancers called GunkSites.

Learn more about it! Visit LifeGunk.com.

Zip Gun, a Nostalgia Toy from the 1950s

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The locals beat me up every hot summer day in 1950s south side Chicago. I was in late middle school and didn’t fit in as I was not from the neighborhood, merely a seasonal, summer visitor every year for three long summers. My status changed dramatically in the second year when the local Italian street gang found out that I made a better zip gun than anybody else. That was a good thing, because I was skinny, relatively weak and a bad fighter. Instead of being a victim, I became one of the boys, but a boy who didn’t have to carry a knife, a car antenna, a baseball bat or any other object that might be useful when you ran into rival gangs. I had status.

We were a motley group of kids. Some of us were already seasoned wiseguys in training, having worked as spotters outside gambling parlors, always on the lookout for the cops. On the street, we would menace any adult we felt like, simply because there were so many of us, but if we mistook a wiseguy for a citizen, we would quickly learn our place in the local pecking order. They would simply pull back their suit jackets and we would see a revolver and immediately scatter.

Fights were routine. Numbers counted. If there was enough of us and enough of them, we would often fight. The local emergency room would fill up with cuts, bruises, broken bones, but the local morgue stayed mainly empty. Seldom did anybody die, even though tempers ran hot and the stupid kids would often start fights that were not intended. Kids who would become wiseguys learned their future trades through youthful emergency room visits and lived to fight another day.

Kids, particularly male kids from the ages of 12 to 18, only have half a brain: by that I mean we boys are not yet socialized, not yet developed, not yet men. And so we are dangerous beings who bait strangers, nurse oversized grievances and magnify the importance of everyday neighborhood living into actions that often end in violence.

Back then, there were no Bushmasters, AK-47s, or Glock automatics floating around on the street. The cops and the wiseguys had the guns, not the youth of the country. The NRA of the time supported the use of shotguns and bolt-action rifles and had not yet gotten around to assault rifles and 30-round magazines. It was a simpler time, we like to say now, but perhaps it was just a much smarter time.

Today, I would never confront a teenager. You never know which kid is harboring an easily obtained handgun and even with my street-wise skills obtained decades ago, I know that unless I get nose to nose with a young killer, I have no chance and it has nothing to do with my aged body and old, slow reflexes. Give a kid 3 feet of space and you are dead, dead, dead.

I’m just saying.

 

—Karl DeBord (c) 2012

 

 

Havana Nights at Cubana Social

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Crispy avocado.

By Mary Yeung

What is it about Havana that seeps so deeply into our collective souls? Is it the sensuous music? The earthy food? 450 years of romantic architecture? A forbidden paradise lost? Or is it the Cuban exiles who keep memories alive with luscious coffee table books, evocative memoirs and atmospheric restaurants.

Earlier this month, Cubana Social introduced its new chef to diners by throwing a cocktail and tasting party. Guests got to sample Chef Andrew D’Ambrosi’s Cuban inspired menu of crispy avocado with habanero marmalade, braised kale, Sea Bass ceviche, octopus a la plancha, slow roasted pork and house smoked wild Coho salmon. For dessert, there was a rich winter-spiced flan and a light key lime pie.

According to owners Chris Bouza and Paul Tamburro, the menu is a modern take on  Cuban cuisine, employing new cooking techniques and interesting mixes of spices to update traditional dishes. Its old Cuba meets new Brooklyn.

The creamy avocado’s crispy shell is deep fried in panko crumbs and the slow-roasted pork is pressed into cubes and seared to lend a more complex texture. My favorite is the braised Lacinato kale, very tender and sweet accompanied by caramelized onions, shitake mushrooms and a mild garlic-lime aioli. The Coho salmon was buttery and intense, served with fruity guava marmalade, charred scallion cream cheese and pressed on Cuban bread. So few restaurants serve wild salmon these days that I almost forgot how flavorful it can be.

Cubana Social’s signature dish is a braised short rib empanada that is a real crowd pleaser, especially for lunch, where you can get three big ones on a plate.

Vegetarian dishes are just as good as the meat dishes, with crispy avocado, savory braised kale and beet and black bean fritters, served with avocado mustard. Vegans are not going to feel neglected.

Pair your favorites with cocktails like the Hotel Ambos Mundos (Dorothy Parker Gin, Black Currant Liqueur, Salers Gentiane Apertif, Spanish Cava and Absinthe Rinse) or the Cosecha Sour (Winter Spiced Denizen Rum, Vanilla Bean Syrup, Egg White and Lemon Juice). These are delicate and refreshing and will remind you of those breezy nights in the tropics.

Most Cuban restaurants I visited on the East Coast usually celebrate the island’s sun-washed Caribbean colors of earthy yellow and muted turquoise, but Cubana Social has a more subdued interior; it’s beige with touches of black and brown, accented with walls of aging, creamy-colored ceramic tiles. It’s like stepping into a sepia tone photograph of 1940’s Cuba.  It has the illusion of faded grandeur, yet it’s casual and friendly, even at night when candle lights are flickering and pretty young people are swilling cocktails and talking of art, music and politics.

Cubana Social, 70 N.6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 

 

 

 

Breathing New Life into Vintage

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By Jason McGahan

Photos by Eddy Vallante

All you need to know about the newest vintage furniture store in Williamsburg can be told in one unusual table. It is a small kitchen table whose top is stripped from the lane of a 1920s-era bowling alley in Elm Grove, West Virginia. The iron base on which the top is balanced used to be a stanchion pole in the Wheeling Tunnel.

“We cleaned out Elm Grove Lanes,” acknowledged David Sofsky, a member of the Sofsky family that owns Brooklyn Reclamation. “Two full-length trailers filled with bowlingalley paraphernalia. Forty lanes of it.”

“It’s enough wood to make end tables, bar tops, and stools for the next 10 years.”

The price tag for the table is $1,400—owing to the fact that the wood is nearly a century old and the table was customized with re-purposed material.

“The most expensive stuff is the oldest stuff, and the stuff that’s customized,” David said. “I do think, for those items, we’re on the reasonable side, pricewise.”

“We try to keep prices affordable for the average customer. We get some customers coming in with big bucks. We also get young people just moving into the area.”

The supplier of the furnishings is Emil Sofsky, the Sofsky paterfamilias, a Greenpoint native who left the city for West Virginia more than 20 years ago. To keep himself busy in the Rust Belt—as that region of the country is called—Emil started bargain-hunting at estate auctions.

“There’s a lot of history here. And a lot of great stuff,” Emil said of his adopted home in a phone interview.

“People out here don’t appreciate it as much as young people coming up in an urban environment. They’re more appreciative of that aesthetic. Like an urban-primitive aesthetic.”

Emil’s exuberant pursuit of new “finds” in West Virginia quickly filled his house and garage to the breaking point. “We were worried he was turning into a junk collector,” David recalled.

But instead of that, Emil came up with a plan for all of his “junk.” In the late 1990s he started hauling his odds and ends to New York to vintage stores in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. They paid him enough for him to continue at it for 15 years. After that, the oldest of his eight children, the ones who never really left Brooklyn, clued him in to an opportunity to open a store in Williamsburg.

Emil said he is thrilled with the new changes taking place in his old neighborhood.

He remembers times when he was the only passenger to get off at the Bedford L station. “This was before Brooklyn was hip,” he emphasized. “And watching Brooklyn turning into what it’s becoming is wonderful to see.”

It’s fitting that Emil ended up in the vintage furniture business in Williamsburg. Talking to him about the neighborhood is like getting a history lesson.

“My grandfather was a longshoreman. It’s in the blood,” he said. “Scully caps and hooks on their shoulders coming off the river. It was like On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando. That’s what Williamsburg and Greenpoint was. That’s deep in our makeup.”

When his sons came to him with an idea to open a vintage furniture store—in effect, to cut out the middleman—Emil reached out to a neighbor in West Virginia he hardly knew to ask about customizing furniture. As luck would have it, the neighbor turned out to be an expert craftsman. With good help on his side, Emil set up a warehouse and a workshop, and ended up hiring a second craftsman.

Brooklyn Reclamation opened in April of last year, and business has been steady from the start.

On the day the store opened, a film crew for HBO sent someone over to rent furniture for a TV show they were filming across the street. Appropriately enough, the show was How to Make It in America. “We ended up renting half the store to them,” David said.

The film crew of Men in Black 3 made a similar arrangement with the store. And Nike recently rented out some bleacher seats and dugout benches for a promotional event.

The Sofsky family has lately been branching out into customizing stores and restaurants in Manhattan. They’re doing work for coffee shops in the Gramercy and on the Lower East Side.

There’s a word for what Emil does: he’s a picker. He’d been doing it for 10 years before anyone told him what it was called.

Hal Sofsky, another of Emil’s sons, said his father is relentless at it. “You can’t go for a drive without him

If every piece in the store has a story, Emil knows them all.

“The other day a guy took me up on the third floor of an old building,” he said. “It was right on the river in a place that would historically flood. They would keep boats in the attic.”

In the attic of that house, the guy showed Emil a 14-foot metal rowboat built in 1930. “It was ready to go out the window. It’s kind of like that. You go into some place and boom you find something like that.”

Hal says that his father’s “Brooklyn gift of gab” tends to open doors in that part of the country.

Emil once bought thousands of pieces of fine china from a Masonic lodge in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Each piece of china bore a Masonic emblem of a Janus-faced eagle perched on a sword. He sold the whole collection to a restaurant in Manhattan, and sent the boys a big wooden sign from the lodge’s ballroom that read “Absolutely No Smoking on Dance Floor,” which some guy in Williamsburg bought for his apartment.

Emil once talked his way into an all-girls Catholic school scheduled for demolition in Wheeling, rescuing an old painted cabinet from the 1850s that was used by the nuns.

The old classroom maps of Europe that adorn the wall in Brooklyn Reclamation—maps that chart “The Expansion of the Roman Empire” and “Eastern and Germanic Migrations to 486”—are more fruit from that adventure.

“We took a lot of mirrors out of there, too,” Emil recalled, “and some old wooden confessionals.” There is an early-1900s dresser in the showroom that Emil found in a mental hospital in Warren, Ohio. There is a bookcase with framed-glass doors he found in a state hospital in Allentown. He sold the worktables from an old glass factory that went out of business in Wheeling. There is also a “Cecilia Melophonic” record player from 1900 on sale —steel needles included—that Emil found at the Moundsville Penitentiary.

“Instead of shopping at IKEA,” David reasoned, “why not get something 100 years old that’s still in good shape and looks great?”

Emil said he is relocating to a larger workspace to better supply the steady demand. I saw the storage room in the back of the store. It was practically empty.

“We turn over stuff so much,” David said. “One of our problems is keeping up with demand.”

Emil said that people can actually feel the history and quality of the pieces when they walk in. The right piece can prick a browser’s sense of nostalgia, for reasons that are hard to predict.

“People just relate to stuff for random reasons,” Hal said.

Like the furnishing for sale in the store, he pointed out, “a lot of people here are from somewhere else.”

Since the writing of this story, Brooklyn Reclamation was named by the Village Voice as the “Best Furniture Store in New York,” in their “Best of Award 2012”issue.

Who Needs Kinko’s? We Have POB, a Full Service Print Shop on Berry

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Photo by Colby Blount / cblountphotography.com

By Keith R. Higgons

Located right on the corner of Berry and Broadway—389 Berry Street, to be precise—Print on Broadway (POB) is a premier new print shop that is home to some of the most state-of-the-art print machinery.

Jovial local publisher Abraham Lebowitz opened POB to fulfill his own printing needs, and then realized he could also fill the needs of the community. Having spent the past year mastering the tricks of the printing trade, he is now eager to take his skills to the other side of Broadway—the side that wears black for an entirely different reason.

Immediately upon entering Print on Broadway I was struck but the lack of flashy banners. There’s no unnecessary signage, just a wide array of machines, some big, some not so big. Some even look like they belong at NORAD. This was a print shop as it should be, full of equipment happily purring away. It is exactly this sort of aesthetic that gives POB the air of printing professionalism.

But it’s not just the look. As employee Yitzi Younger led me on a tour, he gave me the detailed lowdown on the machinery, from the complexity of the squareback printer, to the state-of-the-art Canon color printer, and everything in between, including the in-house UV coating capability.

Lebowitz has gone to great lengths to give the neighborhood access to an up-to-date printing facility. But perhaps more importantly, he has gone one step further: he has secured a staff of printing experts.

In a particular display of deep knowledge, Younger and a local graphic designer named Isaac explained the concept of “creeping.” The idea that it was more than just a Facebook activity was news to me. As they schooled me, I soon discovered that creeping is a pretty complicated and detailed print process that, based on the examples I saw, POB has become quite adept at.

Creeping is what happens when the bulk of the paper in a saddle stitched booklet (a very common binding method) causes the inner printed pages to extend or “creep” further out than the outer pages, when folded. To keep the margins consistent, the images or text must be moved slightly. It’s a pretty intense process, done both manually and with software. It’s one we don’t think about, but we would go bonkers if it weren’t there.

Home printers, despite their technological advancement, can’t get the color detail or the stunning grayscale that the machines at Print On Broadway can. If you require a more professional look, there are certain things better left to the experts. In our neighborhood, it’s Lebowitz and his team.

When I asked Lebowitz how he could serve both the local artistic and entrepreneurial Williamsburg communities, he became animated and said he couldn’t wait. He waved his arm around the room and said his shop can meet whatever printing needs artists, architects, or entrepreneurs have.

“We’ll do anything,” he said.

Print on Broadway
389 Berry Street (corner of Broadway)
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 512-2000

 

There are No Bad Dogs, Just Bad Dog Owners

Screen Shot 2012-12-08 at 11.59.34 AM
LEAST LIKELY TO BE ADOPTED dog pound portraits by LaNola Stone: The concept was to make “fashionesque images” of the longest in residence at the dog pound near my home (some dogs had been there over six months). I specifically asked for the dogs that were the “least likely to be adopted” and took their portraits to represent them with personality, youth and “edge” in order to aid their adoption. All the dogs pictured here were adopted. For more images and a book of children portraits by LaNola Stone.

By Phil DePaolo

You may be considering a new pet this year, and a pup or a kitten is certainly a wonderful addition to your family, but there are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

Do You Have Time for a Pet?

Many pets—like puppies and kittens—are cute, and it’s hard to resist bringing them home, especially during the holidays. But pet ownership comes with many responsibilities when it comes to proper care. For instance, quality time is important.

The most common domestic pets—dogs and cats—need plenty of social interaction and play time. This is especially true for dogs who become unhappy when left alone for long periods of time. Make sure you can devote enough daily time to your new pet.

Cost of Pet Care

Certain pets, including dogs, cats, and birds, can incur significant health care costs, especially if they get ill or injured. Talk with other pet owners to find out what their average annual veterinary costs are.

You don’t want to be in a position in which you can’t afford the regular and unexpected vet costs for a pet. It is so unfortunate when pet owners have to give up their animals just because they can’t afford the cost of a pet’s medical needs. If these innocent animals cannot get new homes, they are often euthanized as a result.

Appropriate Dwelling for a Pet

Different pets require different suitable dwellings. Although cats can be happy in almost any type of residential or office space, dogs do better in certain environments. Dogs can be quite happy in both houses and highrise buildings as long as there is access to outdoor parks or nearby trails. We are lucky to have dog-runs in McCarren and Cooper parks to help, and they’re also great places to meet other members of the community. It is vital that you give your pet plenty of fresh air and exercise. Of course, not all buildings allow dogs, so make sure you check your building’s rules regarding pets before bringing one home. Also remember, if you rent, you will always have to move where pets are allowed. This can severely limit your options, as many rentals do not allow pets.

Amount of Travel

Another thing to consider is the amount of traveling you do. If you spend half of your time away from home for work, you might want to consider which type of pet is best suited for you, or if you should have one at all. If you have other family members or people like pet sitters who can come and look after your pet while you’re away, it might be okay.

However, if you’ll end up having to board your animal for two weeks each month, maybe you shouldn’t become a pet owner. A few days of boarding here and there are okay, but anything more is not fair to the animal.

Allergies and Children

If you or any of your family members have allergies, certain animals will not be appropriate for your home. Again, do your research to assess the suitability of specific animals and breeds for your family.

Training Required for a Pet

Another area you really have to be honest with yourself about is your own ability and the time required to train a pet. Dogs need a lot of training, and many have been abandoned because of owners who failed to properly train them.

Dog experts claim that there are no bad dogs. Instead, there are bad dog owners who did not provde adequate training. If you are a potential dog owner, make sure you get proper dog training, which means education for both you as well as your dog. Training also includes house training.

Research and Prepare For a Lifelong Commitment

Pet ownership should never be an impulse. It’s not fair to the animals,especially if they end up abandoned and/or abused. Do adequate research on what is required in order to be a successful pet owner, and prepare for a lifelong commitment.

Remember, a pet is for life, not just for the holidays!

The rewards of having a pet are great. But there are great responsibilities as well, and as long as you are realistic about them, the personal growth and happiness you will have with your pet are limitless.

If you have decided you can do this, congratulations! Now let’s talk about where to find your pet.

Shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States.

Today, an animal entering a shelter has only one chance in two of making it out alive, and in some places it is as low as one in ten, with shelters blaming a lack of available homes as the cause of death. And yet, statistics reveal that there are over seven times as many people looking to bring an animal into their home every year as there are animals being killed in shelters. Half of all animals who enter our nation’s shelters go out the back door in body bags instead of out the front door in the loving arms of adopters, despite the fact that there are plenty of homes available. How can shelters reform their practices when they refuse to have standards and benchmarks that would hold them accountable, like the best performing no-kill shelters in the nation? In 2002, Mayor Bloomberg signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City Animals, mandating that the city would adopt a no-kill shelter system by 2008. The target date was later moved to 2015. The ASPCA stats show 4 million pets are euthanized every year (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).

Meanwhile, many people buy pets from pet stores that procure them from puppy mills, thinking they are getting a healthier or superior pet. This could not be further from the truth.

Remember:

• 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
• Nearly 100% of all puppies in pet stores have parasites when they are purchased.
• 48% of puppies being sold in pet stores were ill or incubating an illness at the time of purchase, according to a recent California study.
• 500,000 puppies are born in puppy mills and sold in pet stores every year in the United States.
• There are 35,000 pet stores in the United States.
• Puppy mills can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.
• Puppy mills have been around since the early 1960s.
• Almost every puppy sold in a pet store has a mother who will spend her entire life in a tiny cage, never being petted, never being walked, never being treated like a dog.
• Female dogs are usually bred two times a year. At that rate, they usually burn out by age 5, at which time they are put to death.
• About 1 million breeder dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country.
(Chart courtesy of ASPCA)

Some cities are now realizing the horrors of the mills and are taking steps to protect pets and reduce the number of pets being euthanized. Last month, Los Angeles became the largest city to ban the sale of puppy- and kitten-mill pets. The Los Angeles city council passed a law that would require pet stores to sell only rescued animals. The bill was introduced by Los Angeles Council Member Paul Koretz, who was moved to introduce the bill after his pet died due to an illness caused by conditions at the puppy mill that sold him the dog. So I am begging you, please go to a shelter near you and save a death row dog or cat. And let’s all work with our elected officials here to get a law on the books like the one passed in Los Angeles. If they can do it, so can we.

In closing, a thought: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” —Mahatma Gandhi

Have a joyous holiday, and best wishes for a great 2013.

Still on fire
Phil

Local Rescue and Shelters:

Dog Habitat
216 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Tel: (347) 203-3934
Fax: (718) 228-7275
rescue@doghabitat.org

Empty Cages Collective
302 Bedford Avenue, PMB: 301
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Tel: (800) 880-2684
info@emptycagescollective.org

Barc Shelter
253 Wythe Avenue
(between N. 1st St & Metropolitan Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Tel: (718) 486-7489
www.barcshelter.org

Sugar Mutts Rescue
Tel: (646) 732-3795
sugarmuttsrescue@yahoo.com

Sean Casey Animal Rescue
153 East 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Tel: (718) 436-5163
nyanimalrescue@yahoo.com

LIL’ Monsters Animal Rescue
Tel: (646) 837-2059
lilmonsters.org/Welcome.html

North Brooklyn Cats, Bushwick Street Cats, and Big City Little Kitty (aka Lisa, Shawn, Eva, Chris, Jeannie, and Stephanie) rescue cats and kittens in New York City. bigcitylittlekitty.blogspot.com)

We take cats and kittens from NYC Animal Care and Control’s euthanasia (“kill”) list and perform Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) for community cats, taking in friendly cats and kittens along the way. We foster these cats and kittens in our own homes until we find them safe, loving, forever homes. We are not an organization or official group, but a group of friends that work on our own and often together to rescue cats and kittens from needless suffering and death row. Our efforts aim to reduce the suffering of cats and kittens in the city by rescuing those in need, spaying/neutering to help to reduce the number of cats born on the street, and advocating for their rights.

Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C)
2336 Linden Boulevard
Brooklyn, NY 11208
Tel: (212) 788-4000
nycacc.org