I’ve lived in Greenpoint for eight years and have always felt a void in wellness offerings. Thankfully, that’s begun to change as juice bars, gyms, and yoga studios started blooming on almost every corner. The emergence of establishments like Lucent Yoga, Botica Apothecary, and Help Your Self is exciting. Until recently, the one thing still lacking was somewhere to buy workout gear. Not just sneakers or a jump rope, but truly functional, cutting-edge activewear. As a former apparel buyer turned full-time yoga teacher, I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a well-made pair of leggings or running shorts. What you wear when you workout can totally change your experience, as anyone who’s suffered from inner thigh chafing or bleeding nipples can attest!
On a recent morning jog, I was intrigued by a sleek silver sign that read: “Solfire.” The storefront was a beacon of light on the once desolate stretch of Driggs Avenue from the south tip of McCarren Park to the Bedford L Train. I peeked in and saw a plethora of colorful capri pants and made a mental note to pop by during store hours. When I revisited the shop later that week, I was surprised to discover that Solfire (483 Driggs Ave.) was so much more than a clothing shop.
I sat down with John Ziegler (former Wall Street worker turned Solfire’s owner) and Letty Castillo (co-owner of Owl Juice Pub, the in-shop smoothie and snack bar) to profile this wonderful addition to the neighborhood. It’s evident these two love what they do, as do their staff who warmly greeted me as I entered. Having worked in retail, I understand the general malaise associated with sales, but Solfire is not just a store selling things—the brand is built on the mantra: “What Moves You.”
Ziegler explained that Solfire aspires to “be a community hub for people who live a fit lifestyle.” Solfire backs up that aspirational sentiment by offering daily donation-based fitness/yoga/prenatal/meditation classes at the store’s stunning outdoor oasis (complete with zen fountains flanked by Japanese maples), partnering with North Brooklyn Runners to provide free bag check to participants of weekly group runs, and proudly displaying a huge map pinpointing healthy businesses located in Greenpoint/Williamsburg.
Solfire’s partnership with Brooklyn-born, women owned and operated Owl Juice Pub is another testament to their commitment to the community. “Our products are designed locally in our Bushwick warehouse, and Owl has always been our go-to coffee and smoothie spot in the area. When we began planning to open in Williamsburg, we knew we wanted to incorporate them into our plan, rather than collaborating with some big chain juice bar,” Ziegler shared. “Being active has always been important to me, but when my partner Carmen Valerio and I opened in 2010, it became tough to get out for my morning run,” Castillo laments, “I’m always working my shop. I love to chat with customers and really understand what they like.” With free in-store classes starting up this month, beginning with calorie-blasting Beastanetics led by longtime local fitness buff Tim Haft, she hopes to get moving again. Castillo proudly notes that she does get a little bicep workout by making Owl’s famous fresh-squeezed OJ on the daily.
If you are an active-lifestyle enthusiast, I highly recommend you visit Solfire, check out their assortment and chat with their knowledgeable staff. Bonus: Stop by between 3-5pm Monday through Friday for $1 off any coffee drink at Owl, including their incredible, homemade cold brew which I got to sample.
As for the future, Ziegler has some fun plans in mind, “I’d love organize a beer mile where you run a 1/4 mile, chug a beer and repeat until by the end of it you are obliterated.” Sign me up!
Solfire is located at 483 Driggs Avenue in Greenpoint.