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Gowanaissance! New Third Avenue shops reshape the neighborhood

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Photo gallery

1/13
Gowanus girls: Samantha Razook Murphy, Melisa Coburn, and Beth Christensen of active-minded girls’ summer camp Curious Jane have called Gowanus’ Third Avenue their home base for more than five years, and have loved watching the neighborhood change around them.
2/13
Tasty treats: Ample Hills Creamery, which gets its name from a Walt Whitman poem, serves creative flavors out of a colorful storefront just steps from the Gowanus Canal.
3/13
Woodlands in Brooklyn: Hazel Village crafts organic cotton stuffed animals at its new Gowanus storefront, which opened its doors July 31.
4/13
Cheers: Friendly neighborhood dive Canal Bar is a Gowanus classic.
5/13
Canal dive: Bartender Camille Murphy serves Gowanus neighbors cold brews with a warm smile at classic dive Canal Bar.
6/13
Bright lights: Lite Brite Neon, a shop that makes customized neon signs for individuals and businesses — even some high-end clientele like Coach — works out of the Old American Can Factory at Third Avenue and Third Street.
7/13
Artist haven: The Old American Can Factory at Third Avenue and Third Street, once an actual canning factory in 19th-century industrial Gowanus, is now studio space for hundreds of local artists.
8/13
Brooklyn brisket: Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbeque employee Briana Zeck serves up brisket, ribs, and all the fixings out of the Third Avenue joint.
9/13
Industrial oasis: Gowanus denizens shoot pool, watch sports, and sip cocktails at neighborhood bar Halyards.
10/13
Death wish: The Morbid Anatomy Musem, a dream destination for those with dark fascinations, showcases its devilish trinkets out of a daunting black storefront near the toxic Gowanus Canal.
11/13
Industrial tropic: A vacation-themed tropical getaway awaits revelers inside the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club near the Gowanus Canal.
12/13
Old school: Family-owned Italian eatery Two Toms Restaurant has been serving Gowanus its legendary pasta and pork chops for more than 60 years, and is still a mainstay in the ever-changing canal-side neighborhood.
13/13
Canal curiosity: Curious Jane moved further up Third Avenue, from 13th Street to Sixth Street, in April of last year.

Who’s on Third? Everybody!

A slew of new watering holes and Park Slope-esqe storefronts are sprouting up along Gowanus’ Third Avenue area, an industrial sprawl once sparsely populated by the odd dive bar or corner store, and some denizens witnessing the change give thanks to the fetid waterway from which it springs.

“This crazy polluted canal has given a bunch of people an opportunity to realize their dreams,” said Jonathan Schnapp, co-owner of the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, a tropical-vacation-themed getaway that dropped anchor just a block away from the Gowanus Canal two years ago.

Schnapp says the largely industrial zoning that is kept in place, for now, by plans to clean up the canal and the surrounding toxic land has given artists and entrepreneurs a condo-free haven to spread out and lay down roots for their small businesses. The proprietors of the Shuffleboard Club lucked out with a vast warehouse space just as the canal-front scene was getting off the ground, giving them a front-row seat to the overflowing of new eats and treats on Third Avenue, once home to metal shops and tire repair companies.

“It was pretty desolate,” said Ashley Albert, Schnapp’s co-pilot, who lives in the neighborhood. “It was dark and there weren’t a lot of people on the street. But we knew it was coming.”

The change has come in waves over the last few years — renowned ice cream parlor Ample Hills Creamery opened next door to the Shuffleboard, Fletcher’s BBQ started slinging Texas-style brisket down the street, and a herd of innovative techies have recognized the area as the new frontier for space and affordability, with song-annotation start-up Genius announcing its imminent move from a handful of Williamsburg apartments to a 43,000 square-foot office space. Most recently, Hazel Village, an earthy toy store specializing in organic, hand-stitched cuddle buddies, opened its first storefront on Third Avenue.

Sister-run sweets shop Four and Twenty Blackbirds was one of the pioneers to set off what has since been hashtagged the Gowanaissance, leading the charge in 2010 with delectable pies served out of the duo’s first brick-and-mortar storefront on the corner of Eighth Street, and the trendsetters said the canal’s magic was palpable even before the food and tech explosion.

“It sort of had that magical, ‘We can do this’ kind of element,” said Emily Elsen, who co-owns Four and Twenty Blackbirds with her sister Melissa.

Elsen worked in a nearby art studio for four years before she was inspired to open a shop with her longtime baking partner, and says the emptiness of the canal-side avenue made it the perfect place to set sail.

“Gowanus was ripe for change because it’s a lot of post-industrial empty buildings that would really benefit from being cleaned up,” she said.

Canal district pioneers say they are merging seamlessly with mainstays like the old-school Italian joint Two Toms, famous for their giant pork chops, and Canal Bar, a classic dive with cheap drinks and friendly bartenders. Albert says the Shuffleboard Club was welcomed by the old-timers with open arms.

“It feels like we’re part of a neighborho­od,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like we just popped up and there was no history or life here before. We’re not pushing stuff out, it’s all one thing together.”

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

We Shall See from Gowanus says:
I wonder if any of these business owners will get involved in the superfund clean up, rezoning, or community board. It would be nice to hear from newer voices.
Aug. 6, 2015, 7:05 am
Barry from Flatbush says:
It's great that the surge in rents is not pushing out any older businesses or residents. A rising tide lifts all boats, even when it is full of sewage.
Aug. 6, 2015, 10:36 am
lp says:
It a great neighborhood, close to downtown Brooklyn, you will get get paid off soon later
Aug. 6, 2015, 7:57 pm
TOM FAGAN from GOWANUS says:
WHO ALLOWED ALLEGRA HOBBLE TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE/?How did she miss SCHOENFELDS BRIDAL GOWN SHOP @530 3RD AVE, LOWLANDS BAR AT 3RD AVE AND 14TH STREET, VILLA MIA PIZZA 3RD AVE AND 12TH STREET, TABLE 87 PIZZA @3RD AVE AND 10TH STREET, LUCEYS LOUNGE ON 3RD AVE BETWEEN 10TH AND 11TH STREET, THE GOWANUS WINE MERCHANTS AT 11TH STREET AND 3RD AVE, CROP TO CUP COFFEE ON 3RD AVE BETWEEN 13TH AND 14TH STREET ,CHEZ COOL BOUTIQUE 3RD AVE AT 12TH STREET, NUMBER ONE DELI AT 13TH STREET AND 3RD, AND BAR TANO @9TH STREET AND 3RD AVE(15 YEARS IN GOWANUS AND THE BEST HAPPY HOUR IN THE AREA) MICHAEL AND PINGS CHINESE RESTAURANT 7 AND 8TH STREET ON 3RDAVE. NEXT TIME WRITING AND ARTICLE ON GOWANUS PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME , TOM FAGAN AKA MR. GOWANUS , BORN AND BRED IN GOWANUS, tom
Aug. 10, 2015, 7:20 am
Erene from Gowanus says:
Whoever wrote this article clearly is not aware of what is happening on the Third Avenue. Or she is not aware of Gowanus Third avenue boundaries if she missed so many new businesses that are huge part of the community. Do your research before publishing stories...
Aug. 10, 2015, 7:45 am
Smitty from Gowanus says:
Tom, learn how to turn off the Caps Lock key. It's more fun not to look like a psycho loser when you're critiquing a simple little story!

And Erene...you and Tom seriously should hook up. You have so much in common! And I do mean common...
Aug. 11, 2015, 4:45 pm

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