The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dust-Biters: Pizza joint and Ditmas Park Blog

Neighbors seem divided about the (temporary?) loss of Mike & Tony's Pizza on Flatbush, presumably over poor health grades. But what of this joint on Parkside?
Sure the pizza was dreadful, but the location should have given it a fighting chance. It wasn't open even a year. An insider tells me that the owner of Parkside Donut Chicken Pupusa & Coffee Shop is tricking out the old pizza place so he can move his Donut/Chicken/Pupusa powerhouse into larger digs - though larger by not that much - unless a wall is planning on coming down. As to the Flatbush pizza wars, I'm back to Family Pizza, though M&T's had a miles-better crust going (when they bothered to fully cook it - which was most of the time). Slim pickin's 'round here for top-notch anything but Caribbean fare, though we DO do that better than any City north of Miami. The Q doesn't eat out enough to care that much, but it's still a mystery how Brooklyn can have literally exploded food-wise and our Hood stays blithely unawares of the culinary cacophony mere bike rides away. By the way, have you noticed that the beloved Ditmas Park Blog became the Ditmas Park Patch? Seems the founder Liena Zagare lost control of the old blog to her short-lived gig at AOL/Patch and let her popular neighborhood newser change hands and looks. Thus, she and Mary Bakija, Liena's protege and author of offshoot The Flatbush Blog, started Ditmas Park Corner to continue posting with the folksy charm that led DPB become one of the most read neighborhood webzines around. In fact, it was after reading a few days worth of DPB that the Q decided to try blogging himself. Not that I ever had any desire or business acumen to try to turn a profit, but for awhile there DPB was so successful that AOL's Patch Media hired Liena to help lead its nationwide "local news advertising strategy." How is that working out, now that 1,500 or more people are on Patch's payroll and AOL has sunk more than $150 million into it annually? Not so good - seems advertisers aren't biting, but the CEO holds fast, but most analysts say it's only time before Patch pulls the plug, leaving hundreds out of work and a whole plethora of blogs to fend for themselves. And now Liena is back running a publishing empire in Central Brooklyn. Seems fitting - she's great at it.

Does it matter? Probably not. Weirdos like the Q will probably keep blogging for fun and for reasons of civic curiosity. I just don't believe that readership will ever be large enough for small-town blogs to interest serious advertising or investment. Most of the things that made local newspapers money - ads, classifieds - are better handled by Google and Craigslist. And the news itself comes is free and easy to come by via le internet. The Q will stay non-profit and independent, because frankly I'm too lazy to hustle advertisers, and too proud to fail miserably at anything but home repairs.

That said, you should feel free to write me anytime with ideas for posts, or new businesses, or recommendations for businesses you trust. I'm @ theQ.


Anonymous said...

We had Ditmas-Park-envy over all the restaurants arriving on Cortelyou the last few years but after having a horrid meal (uncooked nasty chicken) at Picket Fence and a mediocre dinner (one entree unseasoned and one weirdly seasoned) at Farm on Adderley and then hearing from a neighbor they had a bad meal at Purple Yam and won't go back I am going to say the Emperor may have no clothes on Cortelyou. It's frustrating and ridiculous that every other neighborhood in Brooklyn but ours has a more actively improving commercial district but maybe if and when it happens we'll actually get better places than Ditmas got. And everybody stop blaming the landlords' high rents. If the newbie (and nice) guys who opened Mike & Tony's could get a lease there then a more experienced restaurateur could too. Honestly I think they just don't have a clue about this place. They like other people's girlfriends -- meaning they go where everybody else is already going. So we need to campaign to get restaurants and stores more informed about our neighborhood as a great place to be.

babs said...

Of course, the one blog that lord it over all and I think manages to turn a profit is Brownstoner - because it appeals to various neighborhoods, and also because it seems the the owner/founder is 1. an astute businessman (came from Ibanking on Wall St) 2. someone with a good supply of capital to back up his ventures and 3. full of ideas. Look at his empire now: The Flea, in all its permutations, and now developing a former industrial building in Crown Heights to be a small business/artisanal food hub.

Erica, over at FIPS, seems to be making it work too, but that seems to be due to the appeal of their editorial angle as well.

babs said...

Sorry to hear about your bad experience at the Farm - I've never had any complaints there, or at Purple Yam. I also love The Castello Plan and Sycamore (the bar/flower shop owned by the Farm people). And, of course, they have a Connecticut Muffin, as well as several other coffee houses, and Mimi's Hummus, and Market, and I could go on.

I don't think it's that experienced restaurateurs can't get a lease here, it's that they know that the asking rents and the landlord property neglect make it not worth what they're asking - it's the newbies and the nice guys (as well as some not-so-nice ones) who will fall for it.

I recently had extensive discussions w Connecticut Muffin about a space on Rogers Avenue, which they were considering - until they decided that Crown Heights was a more happening nabe (note Mr. B's project over there now too); they are opening at Nostrand and Bergen.

And it's true - it does take a dedicated pioneer, with a product that will attract people from outside of the hood as well as the capital to stay in business and lose money for a few months as word of mouth builds - that's what happened on Cortelyou with the (original) Picket Fence owners and The Farm on Adderley owners as well (who still live in the neighborhood I believe).

Michael Campbell, the owner of 65 Fen, Delroy's, and the coming market on Fenimore, is our version of these entrepreneurs, and I congratulate him for what he's accomplished to date and support him as much as possible with my $$, as we all should.

Elizabethc said...

That pizza place on Parkside was AWFUL. Really, really not good.I'm back to Family as well...although why, why won't they deliver?

I'd support 65 Fen more if the same wine wasn't up to $7 less at Juicebox.

babs said...

Considering that Juicebox is in Windsor Terrace, not exactly easily accessible for those of us without a car (and therefore equal to $5 in subway or bus fare, plus an hour or so of back and forth travel time), for me it works out about the same, plus it's nice not to need to plan in advance - I can just go by 65 Fen, pick up a bottle, and go have dinner either next door (until they get their wine license) or elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Why not just a pick up a bottle and head over to Flatbush Ave? You'll have plenty of companions to drink with.

brklyn718 said...

My fiance and I live on Ocean and Parkside -- I have been waiting for 65 Fen to open but every time I go by it seems closed? Maybe I just go at the wrong hours?

My husband is a chef, currently in Park Slope, and are working on opening our own restuarant. We ideally wanted to do it PPLG, but the spaces are few and far between and the ones that are free, are very rundown and over priced. We ended up signing a lease in Clinton Hill on Fulton street.
I think Flatbush ave should consider a BID to improve our district. (There might already be one, I just don't know of it.) The Fulton Street Bid (FAB) has been very effective as well as the Pratt Area Council -- they did a lot to help us get in and supported us as a start up.

Hopefully our next project will be in PPLG! We love living here and hope that some headway can be made on Flatbush ave.

Anonymous said...

Not having a bid is a big problem. Flatbush is a rundown POS because there is no organizaton behind attempts to improve it. We can only expect to hear more stories like that of brklyn718.

Anonymous said...

POS might be a little harsh! But interestingly enough, I have noticed many more hipster looking kids (mostly white - would be unjust not to point that out) in PLG, and it has led me to think that PLG is not going to develop the way that Fort Greene and Clinton HIll have.

I think that PLG is going to develop more along the lines of Bushwick, which is still largely poor with spurts of young white hipsters. Fort Greene and Clinton Hill were able to have some "say" in how their neighborhoods developed because of the presence of BIDs and Pratt Area Council. Bushwick, in contrast, has grown more by the seat of its pants. PLG is likely to follow the same pattern, maintaning its "ghetto" feel while attracting white hipsters who are looking for cheap rent. I hope the neighborhood doesn't explode with hipsters, but it's bound to happen to some extent. And, unfortunately, hipsters won't overpay for wine at 65 Fen.

On the bright side, Bushwick is full of great art, performances, and a few fun restaurants. Related: did anyone else notice that the beer place near the gas station got fancy??

Anonymous said...

Yes, Brklyn718, you go at the wrong hours.

Elizabethc said...

It's actually about a ten minute walk to Juicebox from my apartment -- Through the park, which is lovely this time of year. So it's not a huge deal to me.
I find it more annoying that the wine shop in the "less nice" area of Flatbush is overpriced compared to the one in Windsor Terrace. I just don't see the need to overcharge your patrons by THAT much. I'd forgive a dollar or two easily, but when every bottle is five or six dollars more? Why gouge your own patrons? Sadly Trixies -- the pet shop on Flatbush-- is also much more expensive than Animal Fare, which is on Prospect Park South West. Can someone explain this to me? Cause it's very strange. I'd like to be loyal to my local places but they aren't making it easy. Is it, "we're the only game in town, so we can charge what we want?"
As well, you can pick up a bottle and have dinner at Delroys...until it 9pm. Kind of early for me. Delroys and 65 Fen have potential, but they also have many areas for improvement that kind of keep me chronically underwhelmed.

ElizabethC said...

65 Fen is open from 2:30pm-9pm Mon-Fri, 12-9pm Sat, 12-7 Sunday. Not sure why any establishment would choose to only be open for 6 1/2 hours a day Mon-Fri, but I guess it's also possible that people just don't buy much wine before 3pm. Of course, not being open before then ensures they won't buy any. Toss up.

Ceelledee said...

I'm sure he can speak for himself, but as a longtime admirer (and supporter) of Michael's entrepreneurial accomplishments, I'm compelled to weigh in on this one. The practical reality here is that 65 Fen is a very small business start up. So are Delroys and the teeny little gourmet market that Michael will soon launch. I'm sure, if he had access to more start-up capital, he would have been able to pour a whole lot of more it into bringing us a larger shop in a better-situated location, a more luxurious infrastructure, a bigger staff, longer hours, lower prices, etc. But damn, I guess he didn't! So, instead, I'm totally amazed and inspired by the blood, sweat and tears our neighbor has poured into these brave and fledgling new businesses. Because of his singlehanded determination, Michael is literally conducting a major overhaul of a mini- retail strip on Fenimore. As he does this, some of the rest of us are enjoying this local access to a whole new source of much desired amenities.

Are there places where I can find a bigger wine selection and which retails cheaper than at 65 Fen? Sure. With longer operating hours and a bigger staff? Sure. But before Michael Campbell, we didn't have a wine boutique and panini shop in PLG, nor did we have the promise of a gourmet market. Instead, what we had was a whole lot of bitching and moaning about how PLG has "no amenities." So thank you Michael Campbell for being one of the few us who is actually working to bring positive and diverse retail changes to this community! And thank you for doing it -- not by whining with keystrokes-- but by investing your own hard earned money, time, energy and patience into the endeavor. IMO, that's the kind of community investment which deserves all the support the rest of us can muster.

MadMommaCarmen said...

Well said, Ceelledee.

Another thing that must be said about 65Fen is that its mere presence and the fact that Micheal is a respected, positive member of this community has changed the "feel" of Fenimore Street. Once upon a time, the wall of the building directly across from 65 Fen was painted about 2x per month due to gang graffiti. That same building was overcome with loiterers who sometimes got loud and drunk. The first four years I lived in PLG, I generally avoided that small section of my block. Fast forward to the present. The same wall has gotten art work that has NEVER been tagged on. The loitering is so minimal you don't even notice. The corners of Flatbush and Fenimore have gotten significantly cleaner.

Yes, some of our local business are quite awful and the price may not be what you can get in another 'hood, but you have to look at it from a wider perspective. These entrepreneurs care enough about PLG to want to invest in it. I don't think my support (monetary or otherwise) is too much to ask for.

ElizabethC said...

I don't think anyone (or at least me) was suggesting "a different locale" (???) "a more luxurious infrastructure" or "a bigger staff". What I was noting is that a comparable, small staffed, independent store close by has prices that are much more competitive. I was merely stating, IMO, that if his prices were more competitive IMO he might SELL MORE WINE. One bottle Cava at 65 Fen, 16.99: same bottle Juicebox, 9.99.

Being that Juicebox is also a small, and small-staffed independent store, it's difficult for me to understand why there is sure a huge difference in price. ( I am not, for the record, a wine dealer). Is he a nice guy? Yes. Is he involved in the positive betterment of the community? Yes, absolutely. I wasn't discussing his quality of character. The simple fact is that in most business models, pricing competitively is key to success. If I opened a pizza place and charged $5 a slice, how much pizza do you think I'll sell?

65 Fen has a lovely atmosphere, and the local artwork is a nice touch. (And yes, the cat mural is adorable).But when they first opened I gave lots of cards to his establishment, and many people who went told me they found it quite expensive, and didn't return. (It also doesn't help that you have to ask for the price of every bottle since they don't mark it). I didn't think it was THAT overpriced until I compared it with a few other -- again -- SMALL INDEPENDENT STORES. It's not as if I am complaining about a local bookstore versus Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. And if it's in a neighborhood that is not as developed, there is even less of a reason for the higher price.

So this is my question: Are we supposed to blindly praise local businesses just because they are present? Or are we to hope they improve? Because I can tell you the majority of people who shop aren't necessarily interested in the back story. I'd like to see 65 Fen and Delroy's here at this time next year. (I can actually live without the gourmet market). But I'm not sure you can count on local fond sentiment to keep a business open...not in this economy.

That's all I'm saying. As this is a place where opinions are asked for, I think the "whining with keystrokes" kind of misses the point.

Ceelledee said...

I beg to differ. The claim of "whining with keystrokes" is quite on point! I daresay most of us who contribute to blogs are guilty of that very offense from time to time. Myself included.

However, getting back to the substance of the discussion: You cannot simply compare one small, independent business to another and assume you are comping apples to apples. How much capital an entrepreneur has at start-up will significantly impact his/her ability to position their business in the market. Thus, some are able to enter the game with a truly competitive pricing edge. Others, scraping by the skin of their teeth in the first place are not in a position to offer competitive pricing at start up. At base, access to capital often helps to explain why pricing in "fringe neighborhoods" is oftentimes no cheaper -- and sometimes even more expensive - than pricing which can be found in more gentrified areas.

Again, I am not Michael Campbell and I have no facts as to his entrepreneurial back story. Still, my praise for what he's been able to accomplish with his businesses on Fenimore thus far is not "blind" either. In fact, as one who is hoping to launch her own small business in PLG some day, I am becoming painfully aware of how difficult it is to do so when you don't have a huge bankroll of money at your disposal. It is in that context I would much rather post in support of our brave new merchant and neighbor rather than boast about getting a better deal on wine elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

There are basic things missing from 65 Fen - prices on the wines, good lighting, a basic good paint job and a broader wine selection. It's great to have a wine shop in the vicinity but the owner needs to show his businesses some love. Perhaps a designer or store manager could be helpful in making some meaningful yet simple changes that would make community investment and support a done deal. Who doesn't want to support a great local wine shop? I'm slightly confused by the idea of a panini shop.

Anonymous said...

65 Fen - Put prices on the wine and I will shop there!

babs said...

Gee, most of the wine prices are marked on the shelves, so the bottles don't need to have price tags on them, and when they don't, how hard is it to ask? That's part of the beauty of a small, local shop, where the owner knows the customers and you can have a conversation, including asking a price. Doesn't bother me.

I do think the size of the selection is limited by the tiny size of the store - there just isn't room for a lot.

And in terms of a BID on Flatbush, that issue (and the reason we don't have one) has been discussed many times on this blog. And the Fulton St BID was extremely controversial when it was finally voted in.

Good luck in Clinton Hill, but we would love to have you here in PLG - and not just on Flatbush. As I've mentioned before, Rogers Ave. is ripe for commercial development, due to its wider, cleaner sidewalks vs. Flatbush, and a growing "gentrifying" population from Rogers Ave east (many more apartment buildings/two family houses than the area around Lefferts Manor), including new construction on Nostrand just above Empire.

ElizabethC said...

To be fair, Celleedee is correct: after researching it last night, there are apparently many things that can influence the variance between costs in small stores. Ability to buy in bulk (which means you need more start up money and storage space) seems to be among the biggest. I think I'm just going to ask him about it, and give him a chance to provide a rational reason...which he may very well have.

One point though...the prices actually aren't on the bottles OR the shelves, and asking prices for more than a few bottles of wine gets tedious pretty quickly. That's why in general, things have prices on them.

And I wasn't "boasting" about getting a better deal: I was actually REALLY annoyed to find out that I was paying so much more. Like the person above, I'd much rather shop IN my neighborhood. A few small changes and 65 Fen's potential could easily be realized, and we'd ALL be happy...right?

MadMommaCarmen said...

Babs is absolutely right. I have never had to ask the price of a bottle of wine at 65 Fen because its right on the informational label, directly in front of the bottles (the white paper on each section). Each wine section has the wine name, a description, and the price.

Anyone who wants to shop elsewhere has the absolute right to. However, I don't think its fair to nitpick at insignificant details that one has failed to notice already exist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks ElizabethC for the information on opening hours. Whenever I've gone to 65Fen I found them closed. I guess I went there too early in the afternoon.

Ceelledee said...

And, to be fair to you, ElizabethC, I didn't really think you were "boasting." :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Elizabeth C. asking prices on each bottle gets to be tedious. And no, the prices are not on most shelves. Only a few.

ElizabethC said...

"However, I don't think its fair to nitpick at insignificant details that one has failed to notice already exist."

That sentence is constructed in such a way that ...I kind of love it, even though I don't really *understand* it.

I was just in the store a few days ago. While there once were tags below each bottle, stating the brand and price, there are not any longer. I'm guessing they had a big turnover of product. I wouldn't make up a detail to it is (???). Did I get that correctly?

Ceelledee said...

What a discussion. This one may set a whole new Q posting record! But, even at the risk of proving my own point, I do think this price thing may be getting overworked though. :-) That said, how about when you go in the store,you already have some idea of what type of wine you want to buy and at what price point? Let that be known to the store personnel and allow them to direct you to those offerings which will fit your taste and budget parameters. (That should certainly help limit your having to ask the price of every bottle.) And, especially if you are clueless as to what kind of wine you want, why not use that as an opportunity to get some wine education?

Generally, I've found Michael and crew to be rather knowledgeable and engaging in that regard. (Jameka (sp?), in particular, usually steers me in the right direction.) This type of merchant-customer engagement is, in fact, what primarily separates a neighborhood wine shop like 65 Fen, from the typical liquor store on Flatbush. While the latter places usually have their prices well advertised, I must say that's the kind of retail operation where, as ElizabethC suggests, you just want to get in, do your business, and get the heck out. I'm definitely not curious about the back story of those places nor in striking up a relationship with any of the folk who conduct all transactions behind bullet proof barriers, make me have to yell for what I want, and always mark everything ending in 99 cents so they can be sure to try and shortchange me by one penny when I pass them my money. lol!

Meanwhile, if you go to 65 Fen regularly enough, opt to attend the wine tastings, and choose to develop a modest level of familiarity with Michael and crew, and/or their offerings, I'm sure you'll pretty much come to know what things cost there without having to ask prices on each bottle. Granted, in those instances where a new wine is in, or you're willing to venture into unfamiliar territory, you may have to ask for a price or two. (Gee, that doesn't strike me as being so tedious.) And, hey, you just may get to know your neighbor in the process! It's all part of building community --the real essence of PLG, I think -- as opposed to just running to the corner store for a quick transaction. Just sayin'

ElizabethC said...

I'm going to pass this suggestion on to the operators of Duane Reade at Parkside/Flatbush. "Down with price tags! Stop limiting our community engagement!".

Yeah, even I'm surprised this discussion is going on this long...I hope Michael knows people have his back in the blog world!

ElizabethC said...

And yes, Jameka is always very pleasant to talk to. and pretty funny, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

The real problem is that Michael holds down a day-job and simply hasn't as much time to devote to his business as he probably should. And now, with the third store opening, he'll be triple-overworked. The man needs a partner, one with a pricing gun, a dustcloth, and a bit of design sense. I hope he reads this thread and realizes how much people are pulling for him, and how with a little help with the grunt-work and the big ideas, he could be the new king of retail in PLG.

Go Michael! But be sure to listen to the customers...this thread is a gift to you, one that most retailers would be very grateful for. How many of us get to hear what people really think about our work and then hand us a list of ways to improve?

Ceelledee said...

True that, y'all. This discussion is a gift. Michael should be both pleased to know of the support as well as proactive on implementing some or all of the recs. Most of all, he should be proud to know that some of us care enough to give his business all this Q attention!

Elizabeth -- when do you want to have that meeting with Duane Reade? Maybe we should call a community meeting and organize a delegation? lol

Anonymous said...

"The man needs a partner, one with a pricing gun, a dustcloth, and a bit of design sense." Agreed, he should perhaps partner with someone, and keep the place a little neater. However, I don't think there's anything wrong with his sense of style and design...the place is rather least for PLG. I'm sure Michal will be making changes at some point but for now, let's ALL give him a break!

Anonymous said...

Funny how we can praise the virtues of getting to know thy neighbor and at the same time be a bit negative to those very neighbors when they express a view that is different from your own on the Internet. Ah, the ambiguity of writen text and the role of emotions. At the end of the day ya'll probably wouldnt even be bothered by this coversation, if had in person, and would like each other. Hell, some of you might already know each other and not know it.

In regards to tne price issue, I find that there are many things that I like are more expensive to purchase here than else where. Im not sure why. Perhaps because there arent too many of us purchasing these things and thus each unit has to be priced higher to cover over head?

Id like to support local businesses and when I can I do. However, I dont always have the income to justify paying a higher price. I dont feel guilty about this. I moved here when there was "nothing," although I've always found that it actually has a lot of something.

Sometimes I kinda miss how it a young looking white person I've sensed more resentment more now than when I first moved here. (Yes, I talk to people.) I guess because there are more people who look like me demanding things that werent here before, which is fine-I guess. But, it does seem to create a a divide. Not that its any business owners intention - clearly they are very happy to and, I believe, want to include everyone. Sigh.

Any way I do like Michael's shops. And, I do love that he has always been a part of this neighborhood and not a new comer that simply sees a business oportunity. Now if he would just get a professional coffee maker and opened a bit earlier. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Funny how we can praise the virtues of getting to know thy neighbor and at the same time be a bit negative to those very neighbors when they express a view that is different from your own on the Internet."

Some folks do that a lot in PLG whether on blogs or in yahoo groups discussions and it really does not encourage open discussion welcome to hearing any opinion. Instead we often hear from the same 3 or 4 authoritative people over and over. About 65 Fen, that price hike is pretty significant and it's not crazy for anybody to mention it. We're huge fans, we support the store and Michael and it's absolutely necessary to have a place close we can buy wine quickly. No more showing up rudely at neighbors' houses empty handed. We'll still pay the higher price, that's our own choice, but of course $9.99 vs. $16.99 is exploiting the fact it's the only wine shop here. Is what it is. And it's okay to say it.