His first day in Brooklyn, Joon Yoon was baptized in true New York City fashion—with bird poop. While others would consider this an ill omen, Joon saw his unexpected baptism as a harbinger of success. “Some people say it is good luck if you get pooped on,” he explained matter-of-factly over email.
His optimism was warranted. More than two decades since his 1997 arrival in New York from South Korea, Yoon—along with his brother, Jun Yoon—now manages a small green-grocery empire. The brothers own 11 stores (including two in Greenpoint), all of which are a gentlemanly variation on the original store’s name, Mr. Kiwi at 957 Broadway in Brooklyn. They have even expanded into Queens, opening Mr. Avo this year in Long Island City.
Although now bonafide American entrepreneurs, the Yoons originally lived in a provincial capital of middling size in South Korea. Rootless and with financial difficulties, they moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, knowing no one in the New York area. When Joon first arrived at age 23, he began working in grocery stores from the Bronx to Queens at an exhausting pace—seven days a week at 14 to 18 hours a day.
In 2006, he was faced with a choice. The Woodside grocery he worked at was closing, soon leaving him without work. Joon and his family decided to take a leap and open Mr. Kiwi, the idiosyncratic name chosen spontaneously during a road trip. In the beginning, it was hard to gain traction. “They didn’t come with a lot of money or anything… When you don’t have money, there is no one who will give you money. So, they had to start with very little product in the store. Literally, maybe a one-item-per-shelf situation,” explained Jae Lim, their office manager, over the phone.
The brother-and-father team operated the store 24 hours a day, working in shifts. Junseok Yoon, their cousin, came soon after and became an integral part of the operation. Customers appreciated the cheap produce—sourced from Hunts Point Market—and generous portions from their juice bar, detailed Lim.
13 years later, one store became 11. And Mr. Kiwi was joined by Mr. Coco, Mr. Piña, Mr. Melon, Mr. Lime, Mr. Berry, Mr. Mango, Mr. Lemon, Mr. Plum, and Mr. Avo. The Yoon family has even recently opened a salad bar in Bushwick.Continue reading →
GPBA’s new location will have an increased brewing capacity with a 20 barrel system compared to the former 5 barrel system, and they plan to experiment with new brews like blonde lagers in addition to their classic IPA offerings. “Think in terms of a batch of beer, when your grandma made a big batch of spaghetti she made a gallon of sauce at a time, now we’re going to make four gallons of sauce at a time.,” owner Ed Raven said.
“We want to provide beer for the local community, to drink fresh beer, which was an issue for us before when we didn’t have enough beer to make to go around,” Raven said. “Now well be able to fulfill the demand of the local community, but we should be able to take this out regionally around New York state.” Continue reading →
It is almost inconceivable today, but in the 1920s Greenpoint had as many as eight Vaudeville theaters. Some of the buildings still survive, but with other uses.
In the days before most homes had a radio, Vaudeville theaters provided cheap non-stop entertainment with shows lasting for up to 15-hour stretches. In those days families were often larger in size with people crammed into their tiny dwellings like sardines. Vaudeville theaters provided an escape from these overcrowded apartments.
By 1911, records show a theatre at 153 Green St. It shows up in later records as a 400-seat theater either called the Arcade Theater or The Greenpoint Arcade Theater, but it did not last.
Starting in 1927 with the arrival of the first talkie moving pictures, many of the Vaudeville theaters also served as movie houses. The largest theater was the RKO Greenpoint Theater on the corner of Calyer and Manhattan Avenue, which seated more than 1600 people and resembled an opera house with boxes, arches murals and terracotta designs on the ceilings. There were three levels of boxed seats on either side of the stage, and two balconies. The RKO hosted first-run double features after becoming a movie house.
Manhattan Avenue retail is in the midst of a rapid transition and very soon the avenue will be completely transformed into something totally different. Although there are some stores that have been on the avenue for my entire quarter-century in Greenpoint, a new breed of business is emerging, pushing out older established businesses and giving the avenue a new feel. As we reach the end of 2018, it is good to reflect on both what has remained unchanged, what has disappeared and what new businesses have taken root on the avenue.
There are a number of businesses that have deep roots, going back generations. Although the following list is not complete, Cato’s Army and Navy (654 Manhattan Ave.), Peter Pan Donut Shop (727 Manhattan Ave.), the Associated (802 Manhattan ave.) and C Town (953 Manhattan Ave.) supermarkets, McDonalds (904 Manhattan Ave.) and the Triple Decker (695 Manhattan Ave.) come immediately to mind as established institutions. Italy Pizza (788 Manhattan Ave.) and Russ’ Pizza (745 Manhattan Ave.) also have been serving great slices in the area for decades. Kiszka Meat Market (915 Manhattan ave.), Irene’s bar (623 Manhattan Ave.) and the Cafe Riviera (830 Manhattan ave.) are other examples of hardy Polish veterans that have changed little in the past 20 years.
Then, there are those businesses that were once institutions but have vanished. I still miss Cheap Charlie’s (712 Manhattan Ave.) where you could buy just about anything. Gone are Radio Shack (760 Manhattan Ave.) and Off-Track Betting (756 Manhattan Ave.), which were once thriving businesses on the avenue. When I first walked down Manhattan Avenue Corwith Brothers, which had generations of real estate sales in Greenpoint was on the East side of the street and Trunz meat market was across the street from it. For years there was a very popular English language school, I believe called the Greenpoint English School and a popular Polish disco called Europa (now the Good Room) on the corner of Meserole. There seemed to be ubiquitous dollar stores, some of which still survive at least until the lease is up. There were actually very few chain stores and most of the businesses on the avenue were family-owned, mom and pop stores. The Joseph and Sons furniture store comes to mind as does Jam’s stationary, and the Paris Shoe Store. Continue reading →
A 24-hour cafe featuring hand-rolled bagels and a full-scale juice bar named Bagelogy is scheduled to open early next year at 699 Manhattan Ave.
The new cafe will be housed in three former commercial stores, including the former Greenpoint Finest Deli in the front, and will be outfitted with porcelain tiles, custom-designed tables, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Owner Sam Kaplan, who was born and raised on Norman Avenue, is in the process of adding bathrooms and seating capacity for 30 customers in the space with the help of an architectural team.
Kaplan emphasizes fresh ingredients when describing the future menu options. “We are gonna go above Boar’s Head, we’re not doing processed meats,” he said. Customers can expect hand-carved roast beef, hand-sliced lox and eight to 10 choices of tofu cream cheese along with traditional cream cheese options made in-house. Continue reading →
The 2018 midterm elections are a high stakes affair, with the Democratic party poised to take back Congress (and potentially the Senate). So grab a friend or two, most importantly vote and then check out one of the local viewing parties:
Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave.)
The Midterm Election Viewing party at Bazaar w/ Drink Specials
7 – 8 p.m. – ambiance + live music + playing the #actuallycurious card game from Curiosity Lab 8 – 8:30 p.m. – featured speakers, economist Esben Baek + poet Michele Hatchette 8:30 – 8:45 p.m. – Musical intermezzo with Xavier White + results watching 8:45 – 9:15 pm. – featured political guest, new state rep Julia Salazar + conversation between guests and audience 9:15 – 9:30 p.m. – musical intermezzo with Andrew Milea + results watching 9:30 – 10: p.m. – mini haiku duel (4-8 poets duel, first come first served for signups) 10 p.m. – ??? – discussion, celebration, therapy, and meeting new friends
It’s one of the greatest sports events on the planet, and this Sunday (11/4) the New York Marathon will wind its way through our area. 50,000 competitors will pass down Manhattan Avenue and it is one of the very few world-class sporting events you can see live and for free. For better or worse, the race will also close off Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue and part of McGuinness Boulevard for several hours; moving in, out and around our area will be tricky. Despite the minor inconvenience, the race is still a spectacle to behold and Greenpoint is one of the best places in the city to watch the drama of the marathon unfold. Continue reading →