The landscape of NYC will surely be changed (and has already changed) due to the strain of the coronavirus. Landmark restaurants like Odessa and Lucky Strike and the strangely beloved Gem Spa in the East Village have permanently closed. The retail scene, which was already struggling, has already seen casualties from the mall brands (J. Crew has gone into bankruptcy) to the designer sector (Diane Von Furstenberg is closing 18 out of 19 stores). The fallout has also reached Brooklyn with many neighborhood favorites like The Finch and Jack The Horse Tavern shutting their doors. But instead of “doomscrolling” through lists of what has shuttered, it’s worth digging deeper to see that it’s not all gloom. Those that have closed often leave sister restaurants, online stores, or other locations to support. The streets may look a little different when the pandemic is over, but the Brooklyn spirit will certainly remain.
Stories Bookshop, Prospect Heights
Stories Bookshop was the only children’s bookstore in Brooklyn and was beloved by all the kids (and parents) in the borough. The talented booksellers always had intelligent and creative suggestions for children of all ages, birthday gift ideas, and knowledgeable thoughts on new releases. During the pandemic, I re-watched the film “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan plays the owner of a children’s bookstore on the UWS that closes due to Tom Hank’s big-box bookstore that opens next door. It made me think what a loss an independent store is to a community, but a bigger loss to those little readers who grew up attending storytimes and classes, learning to browse through picture books, early readers and finally, to chapter books. This was a magical place, where young children learned the alchemy of breaking a code and finding a love of reading that could last a lifetime. On Instagram, Stories announced: “Since ending our classes, Storytimes, and events on March 13, half of our business has ceased to exist, and with all the uncertainties we cannot see a time in the near future when it would be safe to use our space as it was intended—a small, intimate gathering spot for shared stories, where kids drew and drooled on one another and grown-ups tried not to step on any tiny fingers.” This is the kind of community space that should be protected at all costs, and can still be supported through their online store (although they are on vacation until September).
The Good Fork, Red Hook
Earlier in the pandemic, we spoke to Sohui Kim, chef and co-owner of The Good Fork in Red Hook, Insa in Gowanus and Gage & Tollner in Downtown Brooklyn. She had said that it was the small restaurants that will have the hardest time staying open, and The Good Fork fell under that category. “My prognosis for the Good Fork is the most grim,” said Kim. Its charming location is also its handicap. “It’s a 36-seat restaurant and Red Hook has a Coney Island effect in winter. It’s really a seasonal restaurant, but I’ve always been in denial about that.” Before Cuomo could even usher in the Phase 4 reopenings, The Good Fork had already announced its closure. Per the restaurant’s website: “For many reasons, COVID-19 among them, we have decided to close our restaurant. We do this not in sadness, but with a feeling of sincere celebration for the 14+ years we contributed to the Brooklyn dining scene, and all the memories made along the way.” They will possibly use the space for pop-up events, but meanwhile, they’ll remain focused on Insa and the highly-anticipated opening of Gage & Tollner, which underwent a $2 million dollar restoration and renovation, and was slated to open when the city closed down. Fans of The Good Fork can also use their pandemic hours to recreate some of their favorite dishes from the restaurant in Kim’s two cookbooks, The Good Fork Cookbook, and Korean Home Cooking. Raise a glass to The Good Fork while eating some Green Eggs and Ham from home.
Brooklyn Cider House, Bushwick
Brooklyn Cider House in Bushwick was the only restaurant/bar/cidery in New York City and the only place in the country that allowed customers to catch their own cider from the barrels. We reviewed it in 2018 as “approachable yet upscale” and it was a great place to go for groups for a unique night out. A press release explained, “With the pandemic canceling all their events and wedding business, the need to continue to social distance and limit capacity in the coming months, it will not be possible to sustain the high operating costs.” Fortunately for cider fans, their products can still be purchased online and also, customers can visit their upstate cidery and farm, Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz, NY.
Glady’s, Crown Heights
Gladys’ in Crown Heights started off as a sandwich spot and in 2014 switched to a Caribbean restaurant in a restaurant known for great Caribbean food. Yet, somehow it made a name for itself, especially for its delicious cocktails. “Unfortunately,” they announced on their Instagram, “due to the financial stress of Covid-19 and failed negotiations with our landlord, Glady’s will be closing indefinitely.” Although this restaurant is closed, the sister restaurant, Mo’s Original and connected bar, Any Thing, in Prospect Lefferts are still open for business.
Bedford Cheese Shop, Williamsburg and Stinky Bklyn, Carroll Gardens
With everyone giving up carbs and dairy, I guess it makes sense that the two best cheese shops in the borough would be the twin sacrificial lambs of this pandemic. Bedford Cheese Shop was a prime spot during the artisanal years of the borough and it feels like an end of the era for it to close its namesake shop, even though the Gramercy Park location will remain open for those looking for an experienced cheesemonger and some delicious rinds. Meanwhile, in Carroll Gardens, neighborhood staple Stinky Bklyn has shuttered after over a decade in business. “We tried. We really, really tried,” they posted on their Facebook page. The days of Taleggio and Truffle Tremor may be gone, but Smith & Vine, their excellent wine store down the street, remains. Pour a little out for the cheesemongers of Brooklyn past.
Maha Rose, Greenpoint
On the next full moon, August 3rd, there will be a virtual closing ceremony for one of Brooklyn’s favorite healing spaces, Maha Rose. In the years since its opening, Maha Rose has created a community for the holistic practitioners and dabblers, even expanding into a 1,500 square foot building next door in 2018 to make room for more classrooms and an infrared sauna. With offerings ranging from meditation to breathwork, crystal healing, akashic records sessions, tarot, sound healing, and hypnosis, this was a one-stop-shop for embarking on a spiritual sojourn without having to leave the borough. The Greenpoint location will close, but the virtual workshops and online classes remain open. Plus, retreats at the Maha Rose North center in Hurley, NY will hopefully resume post-COVID. “I’m mourning the loss of the physical space of Maha Rose and trying to navigate our way forward at the same time,” wrote Lisa Levine, founder of Maha Rose, on Instagram. “It’s hard for me to imagine the future while in the process of letting go of the past. I think this is another thing that will need to die: all that forward momentum. Slowing down to be in the process of right now: feeling more deeply into the present moment. Surrendering to the dissolving. Like the caterpillar in the chrysalis that isn’t yet a butterfly. Transformation takes time. Be gentle with yourself caterpillar butterflies. It’s ok to dissolve. It’s good, these parts we are letting die. This transformation we are each going through. It’s good. It’s necessary. Life is long and there will be many deaths. Or life is short but there will be many births. So many cycles of life.” These beautiful words can help us grieve the death of the many storefronts we love, but also help us realize that there will be space for new things to come.