Eastern District and the North Greenpoint Retail Explosion

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North Greenpoint–meaning West Street to McGuiness Avenue, from Greenpoint Avenue up to Newtown Creek–has been in the midst of a slow-burning retail explosion for the past several years. With two grocery stores, several dry cleaners, a hardware store, thrift and junk shops and a handful of bars, the neighborhood’s amenities have long been better than those in more centrally located zip codes. Recently though, a crop of shops offering the “new urban essentials” have popped up–Greenpoint Bikes on Manhattan and Eagle, Usha Veda Yoga, just a block up, and new boutiques on Franklin, which has fast become an indie fashion district.

Today, Eastern District, a beer, cheese and specialty food shop joins their ranks. You may have noticed their vintage-looking yellow and blue sign at 1053 Manhattan Avenue (between Eagle and Freeman, 718-349-1432) as owners Beth Lewand and Chris Gray have worked to renovate what was once a Polish butcher shop. Lewand has deep Greenpoint roots. She and Gray live around the corner in a house that her great-great-grandmother bought in 1912. “When I first moved here [in 1997] this end of Greenpoint seemed a little desolate, except on Sundays when everyone was going to and from church,” says Lewand. “I finally started to see my neighbors emerging from their lairs a lot more once Champion opened.”

A long-time digital media manager and executive, Lewand got bit by the cheese bug a few years ago, while Gray, an art mover and musician in bands like Double Leopards and Endless Boogie, developed a serious homebrew habit. “Our vacations started to include visits to dairy farms and creameries in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Chris has always been a serious beer fan and a homebrewer, so we were visiting lots of breweries too,” Lewand explains. “We developed this daydream of a craft beer and cheese shop a few years ago. When I was laid off in late 2008 I puttered around with other ideas for a while, but really I knew the time was right for us to finally do this thing.”

Lewand spent time working at Bar Artisanal to learn how to be a real cheesemonger, and in January of 2010 they signed on the Manhattan Avenue space. Eastern District has one of the largest selections of American cheese in Brooklyn, paired with a carefully curated fridge full of beers. Customers can also come in for growlers–they’ll eventually have five choices on tap, and are opening today with Sixpoint Righteous Rye, Stillwater Autumnal and Defiant Nut Brown Ale.

The shelves are stocked with local snacks and condiments, like My Friend’s Mustard, Brooklyn Brine pickles and Yellow Queen Honey which is from hives in Greenpoint. They’ll also be serving up sandwiches and an assortment of nuts, olives, cured meats and other beer and cheese accoutrements. Eastern District has a huge kitchen area in the back, and in the collaboratively scrappy Brooklyn food business spirit, P&H Sodas and Anarchy in a Jar are moving in to use the space as a production kitchen.

For the holidays, Lewand and Gray are recommending seasonal and limited edition beers like Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold, Harpoon Glacier Harvest Wet Hop Ale and De Dochter van de Korenaar Embrasse from Belgium. Fear not though–this is not a fancy-only emporium. For a “blowout” the couple recommends Genny Cream Ale, $13 for a 12-pack. It’s even local (from New York State, at least), just like them. 

Here are few other new neighborhood standouts we’ve taken notice of:

Greenpoint Bikes 1078 Manhattan Ave. (between Eagle and Dupont), 718-389-3818 If you’re looking for a slick, fiberglass, fixed-gear bike with a one-of-kind Neck Face insignia airbrushed onto the body, and one of those hats with the brim that pops up in the front, there’s a good chance you can find it any one of the fancy bike shops in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area. If you want anything else bike-related, Greenpoint Bikes in North Greenpoint is your one-stop shop for fun things to put between your legs. Within a price range of $150-$750, Greenpoint Bikes has bicycles of every stripe, from slick fixies to old cruisers to BMX bikes as well as locks, helmets and assorted parts. Open seven days a week from 10am-7pm, Greenpoint Bikes also does top notch, affordable repairs, another crucial addition to the neighborhood. Currently there’s a green vintage child’s bike in their front window that is going to wind up under some lucky Brooklyn kid’s Christmas tree.

Milk and Roses 110 Manhattan Ave. (between Dupont and Clay) North Greenpoint is a neighborhood full of creative people and therefore needs its coffices, and Milk and Roses more than fills that need. Featuring solid, bold espresso drinks, croissants and other treats, as well as a varied, comfortable seating situation, free and dependable wi-fi and a calming atmosphere, Milk and Roses just might be the perfect place to sit and read, chat, or work. A Little House on the Prairie vibe instills a certain calm upon the small café. One wall is a bookshelf filled entirely with old books and a piano sits at the far end of the room, making the place seem elegant, yet effortless.

People of the Free Mind, 200 Franklin St. (near India), 631-488-7063 The opening of designer John Michael’s new storefront, directly atop his studio, helps burnish Franklin Street’s reputation as Brooklyn’s Fashion Row. The Japanese antiques in the store echo the Japanese-inspired, angular lines of his unisex label of clothing, called Artists & Revolutionaries. Each piece is “size-free” (i.e. made for any body type) and made from up-cycled and/or organic fibers; we especially liked the structured-yet-slouchy cable knit sweaters, wool cardigans, and flannel shirts. Accessories, like the chic leather clutches and bags from The Sway, are similarly eco and timeless. This is the second new store on this stretch of Franklin: Julia James Boutique, a cute women’s clothing and accessories shop next door, opened in May, and rumor has it a baby store is coming to the corner of the block soon.

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