In the grand finale to our Valentine’s Day power couple series, we saved the most unique neighborhood love story for last, as it encompasses not one, but three couples with Greenpoint roots. Beth Lewand, who owns craft beer and cheese emporium Eastern District on Manhattan Avenue and Eagle Street with her husband Chris Gray, wrote a beautiful and historical narrative of her family’s relationship to the neighborhood. We think you’ll really enjoy it. Happy Valentine’s Day to our readers and to all the couples who shared the love in this series!
Story by Beth Lewand:
In my family, Greenpoint and romance have a long history together. My grandparents, Regina and Edward, first met at a dance at the Polish National Home (now known as Warsaw, on Driggs Avenue and Eckford Street). Apparently he had to work extra hard to impress her, since he was from the “wrong” side of the neighborhood (north of Greenpoint Avenue). They married at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Humboldt Street in 1942.
In 1967, my parents, Bob and Karen, had their engagement party at the Polonaise Terrace on Greenpoint Avenue, where they were serenaded by the Eddie Gronet Orchestra, featuring accordionist and vocalist Regina Kujawa – big Polish-American superstars of the time.
In 2003, I lived on Freeman Street and my future husband, Chris, lived on Clay Street. We met when a mutual friend came to town and we got together for beers one quiet night at Wendy’s Bar on Greenpoint Ave. In the following weeks we started to run into each other on Manhattan Ave. or crossing the Pulaski Bridge. Eventually we found ourselves on a date, hanging out at Tommy’s Tavern and drinking too much Bud Light from their frosty cold mugs. (We may own a craft beer store now, but we do believe that there’s a time and a place for everything – even Bud Light.)
Chris started leaving cute little notes and gifts outside my front door, and I gave him daffodils from my garden. We dined at Christina’s and Acapulco, and like many of our neighbors, snuck through holes in the chain link fences to get close to the East River and watch the sun set behind Manhattan.
We got married in 2009, and as soon as we returned from our honeymoon, we started working on the business plan for Eastern District. Chris loves craft beer, I love artisanal cheese, and we had daydreamed for a long time about bringing our great loves together and giving them a home in Greenpoint.
Eastern District opened in 2010. Owning a small business and running it with your life partner can be a stressful and challenging proposition. We never seem to have enough time or money. But there’s nobody else I’d rather spend my days with. I feel exceedingly proud when I see Chris helping a customer discover the perfect beer, or when I look around the cozy store that we built together.
And it doesn’t hurt that in Greenpoint, we have the best customers, neighbors and friends you can find. I can’t imagine a more supportive community. When we see our customers out at a neighborhood bar or restaurant, they congratulate us on having a night off! We also love doing business with other local establishments like Alameda, Adelina’s, Troost, The Mark Bar, Dandelion Wine, Ovenly, and the Brooklyn Brewery. It’s exciting that so many new food and drink businesses have emerged in Greenpoint. But we hope that the unique community in this neighborhood can be preserved – because that’s why we love it here.
(That, and the kielbasa.)
Wow – thank you so much, Beth!