The morning after Hurricane Sandy, Daniel Power—the co-owner of powerHouse Arena—ignored evacuation warnings to drive to his store in DUMBO in order to assess the damage. He had expected a few inches of water, and they had diligently prepared for 18”, but instead he found over two feet of devastation. “The front door glass was broken outward; that’s how much pressure the water inside exerted when the streets receded,” he told me. All in all, the damage to powerHouse Arena amounted to $50,000. “I felt like a water tornado hit us, I just could not understand how so much water got in and what it did. Salt is still leaching out of concrete veneer cabinets.”
Luckily, Brooklyn has an answer for Sandy’s record-breaking storm surge: community. Power described the reaction from the Brooklyn community as “very strong; people are very particular about bookstores in general; they stock products that are vessels of ideas and imagination.” The outpouring of support will find its expression in a fundraiser being held tomorrow at powerHouse Arena, featuring readings and performances from Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster, Joseph O’Neill, Téa Obreht, Teju Cole, to name only half the list!
Daniel Power and Susanne Konig, a Park Slope-based husband and wife team, founded the Arena in 2006 as “a laboratory for creative thought” and event space. If you’ve caught an author event at powerHouse, you know that is one of the best places to do so in Brooklyn, with amphitheatre-style seating that guarantees a good view, and a wide array of perfectly selected titles ranging from cooking to art, through kids and literary fiction and nonfiction.
As the Arena recovers, a new chapter in the powerHouse story is taking shape, with a Park Slope offshoot of the DUMBO store called powerHouse on 8th slated to open after many delays on Wednesday, Nov. 21, “after school.” Its genesis began on a summer evening, when Power was eating dinner with his son at Park Slope restaurant Johnny Mack’s and noticed a “For Rent” sign in the recently defunct Reel Life—a video rental store—across the street. In a neighborhood with “so many kids, authors, editors and publishing execs,” Power though why not a bookstore, why not a “powerHousesheen, as they say in Irish (a small, nay a tiny powerHouse).”
And thus, a bookstore is born. The new store, which opens today, will stock stationery, kids, cooking, decorating, and style books, and will also be a mini gallery and reading space. The events will include readings by authors, albeit on a smaller scale than the Arena, with a focus on more lifestyle (cooking, decorating, distilling, Etsy-ing), and more children’s, from babies to YA.
And in a neighborhood famed for its population of strollers, parenting will take a prominent position. According to Power they’ll feature books on “how to jettison helicopter parenting; Park Slope parenting identification studies, how to be a stay-at-home dad without staying at home, etc.” And don’t worry; they’ll have some Amy Sohn books. Additionally, the back area is designed specifically with little kids in mind.
In a borough blessed with many great bookstores, powerHouse has a unique vision, and we are lucky to have it. As a Park Sloper, I know I’ll be browsing at powerHouse on 8th weekly, if not daily, and I hope to see you there too.
powerHouse on 8th is located at 1111 Eighth Ave between 11th and 12th Sts. in Park Slope