Propeller Coffee (984 Manhattan Ave) is among the wonderful coffee shop lineage on Manhattan avenue. Its progenitor, Clare Spikerman gave birth to it with specific intention, an homage to the places she’s been and the people she’s known. The places that patrons of Propeller will go aren’t left to just be talk across the counter, but talk of the cafe’s wall. Greenpointers spoke with Spikerman about the budding collection of postcards behind the counter – which she’ll admit, mostly come from her mother – but that’s starting to change.
GP: What does a postcard mean to you?
Clare: I guess it’s like someone thinking about you. It’s a token of a person, a place and a time, like a placeholder.
GP: Where do the postcards come from?
Clare: The café has a travel vibe to it. My mom was a flight attendant. I thought it would be cool if people went on trip, and they could send postcards. It was in my subconscious to do it, but I have to give a nod to Commodore, they were the original ones doing it. But ours is very different from theirs.
GP: It’s an interesting collection you have growing on that wall.
Clare: Ours is the wall of fame. Its postcards, but not just that, if we find something we really like or if someone leaves something that we really like, it’ll make the wall.
GP: How does it feel to have this thing now that’s becoming part of Propeller?
Clare: I feel Propeller is trying hard to be part of a neighborhood. We want people to come in and feel at home here. When you go on a journey you send people you love a postcard. I’m hoping that this is a place that you’ll love and that you’ll want to send a postcard to.
GP: Have you sent yourself a postcard?
Clare: I went to Woodstock, bought a postcard with the intention of sending it to Propeller and complications ensued.
GP: She laughs. Is there a postcard that is really cool, or has something behind it that you’d like to share.
Clare: A lot of those postcards fare from my mom. She’ll go like half an hour from where she lives and send it. But, they are all meaningful. There is a cool story behind one of them, he was one of our first customers, Stuart.
GP: Tell us more about Stuart.
Clare: He was one of the first people who started coming in on a daily basis, an Australian kid. He would go on a walkabout and then come here. That’s how he found us while subletting an apartment here in Greenpoint. He ordered a long macchiato first, sit and have it and the go off and do some emblematic New York thing. It was so cool that he found us and that we do Australian coffee. How fortuitous! Then when he left, he sent a card of thanks. So, yea, that one is really special.
GP: Can you share some of the destinations of the postcards?
Clare: Spain; New York, Portugal, Spain, Edinburgh Scotland, Turkey, New Zealand, and two from London.
WP: Clare leans from her chair along the café’s vertical wall to figure the others.
Clare: Florida, Perth, Australia, Tokyo.
GP: What do you think about the importance of art in coffee shops?
Clare: At Propeller, its about creating an atmosphere, but there’s always tokens, touch points, things that are going to resonate with people. The art I choose is much more personal. I know the women in the pictures on my walls, but they speak to people in different ways. They’ll say I love that photo, and or what that represents.
I feel guilty not having local art, but we went with a specific design so we had to be specific about what art we had on the walls.
GP: What would you like people to know about this specific art, that is for now a permanent part of Propeller?
Clare: We haven’t curated without thought. Don’t be afraid to ask us about the art, ever. I want to be a storyteller. They all have a story and are very meaningful.