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Anxiety on Main Street

The Brooklyn Paper
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Who knew that the “Main Street” that all those congressmen have been talking about is right here in Brooklyn?

This week, our “leaders” spoke of the need to bail out “Wall Street” to save “Main Street,” the place where small businessowners form the backbone of our society, where homeowners are just one missed paycheck away from getting foreclosed on a mortgage they should never have been offered in the first place, where family values are so strong that they may be the only thing that will pull us through this mess.

That sounded to me just like our Main Street, that two-block cobblestone stretch from Plymouth to Front streets in that least Middle American of neighborhoods, DUMBO.

Granted, on this Main Street, the local bookstore sells such mainstream fare as coffee table books on the worst excesses of the 1980s (alas, the book is about disco, not the Crash of ’87) and the sexual practices of Japanese fetishists (who knew that a naked woman in bondage gear could be so unsexy?).

And on this Main Street, the community theater is the Galapagos Art Space, where the walls feature both paintings of naked women masturbating and posters promoting an upcoming kite-flying event for kids.

This Main Street also has a kitchen supply store where refrigerators routinely run $7,000 and the store’s manager is also a chef who just happened to be whipping up a fragrant sabayon for an upcoming party when I walked in on my fact-finding mission to gauge the local mood.

But all the luxury items are just window dressing — actually, the window dressing on this Main Street is huge pictures of half-naked men hanging in the bookstore window, but I digress — the point is that people on this Main Street are just as anxious as their countrymen on “Main Street,” albeit their anxieties are a bit different.

“My first reaction to the financial crisis was, ‘There goes the cabaret,’ ” said Joseph Perna, an artist who is creating a show at the Galapagos Art Space called “Floating Caberette,” an authentic multi-act show based, he said, “on the original Weimar-era cabarets.”

“Most people see art as expendable,” he added. “It’s the first thing to go.”

Daniel Power, who owns the Powerhouse Arena, the bookstore and boutique publishing house at 37 Main St., disagreed. He said his products — arthouse books — are uniquely expendable.

“Our returns are way up, so, yes, I’m anxious,” said Power. “We make and sell a luxury item: entertainment in book form. It’s the first thing to go.”

Well, if Power and Perna are right, they’re not right by much.

“Are you kidding me? We’re freaking out upstairs,” said Bill D’Agostino, who emerged as a spokesman for a group of guys who work in a payroll services company at 45 Main St. “Our product is harder and harder to sell and our lost client list is getting longer. Everyone is worried.”

Jonnie Clause, who’s the sabayon-maker’s boss at the BSH Home Appliance showroom, said she’s not worried, but when she admitted that she actually lives in New Jersey, I sensed an opening. When I remarked about the high-quality of all the flat-top ranges, stainless steel appliances and absolutely silent dishwashers for sale, Clause said I was welcome to test out anything on the floor.

Yet when I asked her if I could come in with a full load of laundry, you know, given the state of the economy, she balked.

“I don’t think it will come to that,” she said.

My laundry bag says otherwise!

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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