Memento gory! Gowanus Souvenir Shop sells canal-inspired keepsakes

The Brooklyn Paper
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Now you can take home a memento of your trip to the Gowanus Canal that isn’t a rash!

A pair of Gowanusites just opened a souvenir store selling trinkets, nick-nacks, and novelties crafted by local artists in celebration of the neighborhood’s famed toxic waterway.

“Most of what we sell are custom-made for the shop to relate to any one of the many weird stories related to the canal,” said Ute Zimmermann, co-owner of the Gowanus Souvenir Shop on Union Street between Bond and Nevins streets.

The shop’s novelty wares occupy a space between art and irony, and include “Gowanus Swim Team” T-shirts, poison bottles labeled with various toxins found in the fetid neighborhood waterway, and handcrafted mutant action figures — all created by neighborhood makers, according to Zimmermann.

The owners, who have backgrounds in the art business, say they have generally relied on word of mouth to accrue a catalogue of talented locals to contribute to the shop.

“Gowanus is known for all these makers and artists, and one person begets another,” said Zimmermann. “It happens organically and I was really surprised.”

The fledgling gift-emporium owners are currently working with the neighborhood talent to develop new items to sell, and Zimmermann says the store will offer a few fresh tchotchkes in time for Valentine’s Day.

“The funnest part of starting the shop so far has been getting to know and develop ideas with these people,” she said. “We have a lot more things were commissioning that are going to come, but that’s a process and we’ll see a lot more stuff in the Spring.”

The gift store found its inspiration from Proteus Gowanus, a gallery and reading room that previously occupied the space on Union Street, and where Zimmermann worked for a time. Before it closed, the founder mentioned that the gallery had a gift store that did a roaring trade in postcards, and Zimmerman figured there might be a market for other Gowanus-themed items.

“She said the only thing that ever sold there were the Gowanus postcards, and then a light went off in my head,” said Zimmermann.

The Gowanus Souvenir Shop [543 Union St. between Bond and Nevins streets in Gowanus, entrance on Nevins Street, (424) 888–2869,].

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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