Restaurant owners have for years pushed back against third-party food delivery app fees, and now the NYC Council is poised vote on legislation on Wednesday to limit such apps in response to the financial strain put on small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday Mayor de Blasio said that he supports a proposed NYC Council bill regualting delivery app fees, which will likely be capped at 20%, the NY Post reports.
Owner of Italian restaurant Adelina’s (159 Greenpoint Ave.) Toby Buggiani says that certain apps can charge restaurants over 30% per order. “There have been some partners of restaurants that have lowered their fees, and some restaurants have lowered their prices to survive and make it through this. We’re all operating on a different scale then we used to be,” Buggiani said.
“The problem with platforms like Seamless is that they have not lowered their fees,” he said. “Right now my margin for Grubhub is 32% and if I’m marking up a bottle of wine for 30%, then I’m loosing on the sale.” Continue reading →
A new food pantry and delivery service, Food for Brooklyn, was launched by married Greenpoint couple Blake and Laura Beth Comer just a few weeks ago and the number of families on their delivery route is already growing. “Yesterday I delivered a week’s worth of groceries to six families, and we’ve already picked up anther family for next week,” Mr. Comer said.
He began delivering groceries to families in North Brooklyn after coordinating with a friend volunteering with the Park Slope coffee shop-turned-food-bank Roots Cafe.
Food for Brooklyn will hold its first pantry distribution this Saturday at 55 Sutton St. from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Continue reading →
Settling into our third (!) month of the pandemic, many of us have moved from stockpiling the essentials to enjoying stress-reducing libations. Enter Greenpoint Cidery, the beverage whose effervescence is only matched by its diligent and ever-mobile owner, Nika Carlson. While a neighborhood staple for five years, Greenpoint Cidery is used to making transactions on the business-to-business level; now, the distribution is more personal as Nika shuttles between upstate farm and nearby neighbors to deliver goodies and make connections. As one of the beloved small businesses we’re highlighting in our Thursday Spotlight series, Greenpoint Cidery is both enormously affected by COVID-19 and also finding opportunity in a revamped business model. Here, Nika discusses the many hats she wears at Greenpoint Cidery and the upsides of operating an independent business amidst a pandemic.
Greenpointers: How have sales been doing during this time? And, on a similar note, is cider a drink that’s ever out of season?
Nika Carlson: Sales are good! I started doing home deliveries the first weekend the state allowed it just by posting on Instagram and taking orders via text and DM. That first weekend was mostly friends and acquaintances, but word has spread and at this point I even have regulars. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as our strange new world does.
As for the seasonality of cider, I’d say it’s always a great option. Cider can be a lot of different things, but I make it in traditional styles that are comparable to natural wine: low intervention, wild yeasts, and a long-aging process. It’s great for pairing with food, but also just for crushing on a hot day. The lower alcohol content means you can drink it without worrying about getting real tipsy, and because everything I make is totally dry, there’s less hangover there, too.
Your website states that you got your start in the Brooklyn bar scene. Can you talk about that time and how it acted as the springboard for Greenpoint Cidery?
I used to run a bar in East Williamsburg called The Drink, and we were always excited to sell anything unique. When we opened, all I knew of cider was sweet stuff like Woodchuck, but someone introduced me to Spanish cider, and my mind was blown. It was sour and funky and regional and just so cool. Cider was also experiencing a renaissance in New York around then, and I caught the bug. There’s a lot of really fascinating, beautiful history in apples and in cider in America. Now I’m a farmer-ish and cider maker (I’m also head bartender at Broken Land, at least in normal times, and wow I miss my regulars so much!)
No three words will get me jazzed more than Greenpoint, Hudson, and apples. Naturally, we all love Greenpoint, but Hudson may be one of my favorite towns in New York. What’s it like to shuttle back and forth between these two little havens for your work?
I feel super lucky to have the best of both worlds: nature and also the city I love so much. The cidery and orchard are just outside Hudson proper on about 80 acres some friends own. There are fields, forest, a creek to swim in, other dogs for my pup to play with, and friends to lend a hand when I need them. A dream that keeps me sane. I’m usually too busy working when I’m upstate to enjoy Hudson itself, but it’s a lovely town I’m grateful to have access to.
How long has your business been around, and how has it evolved? What are the challenges and rewards?
About 5 years? It’s changed a lot. I started the business with a partner, on a different property, with the goal of opening a cider-focused bar ASAP. Now I run it solo, and last year I moved everything onto this new space where I can focus on honing my craft, growing sustainably, and keeping an eye to opening a tasting room when the time is right. I do everything: build the fence, maintain the trees, make the cider, design the labels, clean the kegs, and, now, make home deliveries. It’s a lot for one person, but I love to work hard and to create something that brings people joy. It’s also been a wonderful lesson in patience and flexibility. Growing apples and making cider is a slow process, and Mother Nature doesn’t f*ck around, you know? You have to pay attention, and roll with the punches.
Do you distribute to bars and grocery stores, or just operate on a customer delivery basis? And what’s the best way that we can support you?
I do! But obviously bar and restaurant orders have died off. The state just started allowing home delivery in response to COVID-19, so that part is very new to me.
You can support me by placing an order! My delivery zone is literally the whole city, minus Staten Island. If you like it, tell your friends (or even order a few bottles to be sent to them). I’m working on adding shipping to the rest of the state, and you can also follow me on Instagram and/or subscribe to my mailing list. If you have a shop and are interested in carrying my cider, please reach out. I’m still taking wholesale orders and can do socially distanced tastings.
We’re so proud to highlight creatives in this series, and that absolutely includes culinary ones, especially those who represent our vital small businesses. As the leader of a small business, what’s something you’d like to share with our community at this time, or wish our community knew about managing a small business?
I know it’s a treat for customers to get home delivery, but it’s also a treat for me to meet everyone face-to-face. My cider work is usually very solo. All the positive feedback has really helped buoy me as I pivot and pivot again, planning for the short and long term, whatever that may look like. I’m not naturally inclined toward salesmanship, but I’m working on letting people in more on my process. People seem to like that, and they want to help, and that feels really good. So thank you!
The Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA (which stands for community supported agriculture) is now accepting orders for their weekly and bi-weekly fresh produce pickup starting again in June.
Functioning as a volunteer-run organization, the GWCSA works to build relationships with local farmers to bring seasonal produce to the neighborhood. A typical summer brings approximately 300 sign-ups according to volunteer and core member Lydia Rockett, and the first distribution of the summer is scheduled for Wednesday, June 10th.
Pueblo Querido Coffee Roasters (195 Greenpoint Ave.) opened in 2016 on the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard and instantly became a destination for quality coffee made from imported Colombian beans in a neighborhood with plenty of competition.
After signing a lease in March of 2019 for a freshly renovated Williamsburg storefront at 34 N. 6th St., 33-year-old owner Christian Guzman remains cautiously optimistic with the tentative opening of his second PQ Coffee shop that is scheduled for May 1st.
In the midst of a pandemic, Guzman says that that he has no choice but to push forward with the opening due to his rent obligation and business insurance payments. Guzman hopes that after pouring all of his resources into furnishing the new space with Colombian murals and even a vintage car inside of the store, PQ Coffee will bring life to the currently barren stretch of N. 6th Street near Kent Avenue.
Due to his leveraging of the Greenpoint shop as collateral in the Williamsburg lease terms in lieu of a what would have been nearly a million-dollar deposit, Guzman says that the stakes are high, but that there remains reason for optimism as his new coffee shop will be one of the only businesses open on the entire block.
On a typical business day in the pre-coronavirus years, PQ Coffee in Greenpoint would serve approximately 300 customers seeking a caffeine fix per day. During the recent quarantine weeks, the coffee shop is lucky to see more than 50 customers walk through their doors in a day. “One, two weeks ago, it was dead,” Guzman said.
Online orders for PQ Coffee’s signature beans help to compensate for the decline of in-person sales, according to Guzman. Coffee bean orders for both delivery and pickup continue to increase, especially mail orders from Brooklynites who have decamped from the city and are still craving their go-to brew.
Guzman utilizes his relationships with farmers to import single-origin beans sourced directly from small farms in Colombia that he and his team roast weekly in-house. “In Colombia everything is picked by hand,” he says, adding that the high altitude and climate in his native region in Colombia known as the “Coffee Triangle” allow for a chemical-free growing and harvesting process with fewer insects to fend off.
Construction began on the new Williamsburg space in early 2019, but delays due to the building’s electrical and construction inspections pushed back the original December 2019 opening.
“They got everything passed and then coronavirus hit,” Guzman said. “Contractors stopped, plumbing didn’t want to come, the electrician didn’t wan to come; so it was closed for almost a month.”
As of this week, all inspections have passed and the final touches are being put in place at the N. 6th Street space, and if the espresso machine Guzman ordered from Italy arrives in time, PQ Coffee will be open one week from today, when Guzman’s first rental payment is due.
“The rent in Williamsburg is like two times the amount of my Greenpoint rent,” he said.
With the extension of New York’s pause extended officially through May 15th, some Greenpoint eateries and cafes that closed temporarily due to the coronvirus pandemic are starting to reopen with limited delivery, takeout and curbside pickup options.
On Wednesday, Odd Fox Coffee (984 Manhattan Ave.) reopened with a limited menu of freshly brewed coffee and tea to-go with curbside pickup. The Greenpoint location will remain open until further notice; stay tuned to the Odd Fox Instagram for updates.
Difficult times have often been a catalyst for resilient arts. As such, it will be interesting to see what is created after this enormously trying period. But already, Brooklynites are coming together to creatively express what we have lost: they’re making stages out of their balconies and serenading the community, snapping portraits of those in quarantine, and — in this Thursday Spotlight’s case — paying tribute to a lost neighbor.
Here, actor and illustrator Tony Wolf discusses his cartoon in The New York Times that was published earlier this month and pays homage to the life of Carmine Notaro, the late owner of the beloved Carmine’s Original Pizza. Learn about his process and reflections in our interview!
Greenpointers: To rewind a bit, what was your relationship to Carmine(‘s), as a pizzeria and/or neighborhood figure?
Tony Wolf: Shortly after I moved to Greenpoint in1996, I discovered Carmine’s Pizza, since my apartment was just a block and a half from it. I instantly loved the pizza and the vibe of the place. Over time, Carmine came to recognize me as a familiar face, as I’m sure he did with so many people and customers. He had a quietly reassuring, welcoming presence, and I noticed how many hours a day he worked. We talked occasionally and became friendly. I personally saw him extend such kindness to the homeless of the area, and witnessed the manner in which he treated all his customers.
Carmine sadly passed on April 2; less than a week later, your full page cartoon appeared in The New York Times. Did you immediately know, following the news of Carmine’s passing, that you wanted to create something? Or had you already had some kind of tribute in the works?
I had wanted to do a piece about Carmine as far back as 2014, when I started “Greenpoint of View.” As shown in the comic, I did try to interview him in 2015. Over time, I worked up a pitch, and was thrilled when the Times greenlighted it! The comic was completed in December 2019, and the editors needed to hold it for a few months, since they plan the Food section far in advance. Once Carmine passed away, we quickly made text edits to the last panel.
On Facebook you credit Thomas J. Gryphon with help with the execution. You artistically spearheaded this process, but can you discuss Thomas’ contributions?
Thomas aka Tom has been working with me for about five years now. He also invested me early on, by printing up my first physical minicomics. With my stories, I research, write, illustrate, and hand-letter everything, and Tom does all the coloring, plus lettering corrections via Photoshop, and other formatting work to get it ready for print or online presentation. With the colors, he’ll do a first draft, then I’ll give him notes on that draft, and we’ll trade drafts back and forth until I feel it’s done. If I’m the film writer/director, he’s the cinematographer and lighting designer I collaborate with. Tom also found a way to fit the entire comic on a broadsheet New York Times page, something I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to figure out!
That picture of Carmine napping is so jovial; it really captures the tireless work of our community leaders, no?
Ha, yes! It was really fun to discover that many people had taken affectionate pictures of Carmine napping over the years, and I enjoyed going through instagram to find the ones I wanted to draw in that “napping montage” sequence. Long ago in the entertainment world, the phrase “The hardest working man in show business!” would be used to introduce James Brown and Elton John, and I often thought to myself in the early 2000s, “This guy Carmine must surely be the hardest working man in the pizza business!”, especially given his age.
Your work is such a lovely testament to our small and local businesses during this time. Do you have any words you’d like to share with our neighborhood locales during this difficult moment?
Thanks, that’s very kind of you. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for restaurant owners and workers during this extremely difficult time…and was saddened to hear about places like Cherry Point on Manhattan Avenue having to go out of business. So many wonderful restaurants have gone under; it’s heartbreaking. And we are all, around the nation, extremely grateful for the local businesses and food places that are doing delivery and working so hard to provide those services. The importance of essential workers at this time cannot be overstated.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m just really thankful that I got to tell the story of Carmine Notaro to the world. I’ve always loved the work that Greenpointers does in covering the community, and thanks for taking the time to speak with me. And Carmine’s two sons, Patrick and John, were really helpful with my research, and they gave me some extra information about their dad’s life story.
The Greenpoint Vietnamese destination Di An Di (68 Greenpoint Ave.) is offering a new crawfish dinner to-go.
A small sample of the Viet cajun crawfish dinners were available to order last week and quickly sold out.
Di An Di will have “45ish” orders of their crawfish dinner on Wednesday starting at 5 p.m.; for $35 you get two lbs of crawfish, four shrimp, and a piece of kielbasa sourced from Kiszka in Greenpoint that is cooked with yukon potatoes, mushroom, onion, and corn, and tossed in a mildly spicy lemongrass and garlic butter sauce; order pickup or delivery via the Di An Di website.