on coffee and neighbourhoods

There are a lot of empty storefronts in my neighbourhood, in what I think is a one-man gentrification scheme spearheaded by my landlord. In my estimation, he’s sitting on these spaces waiting for fancy coffee shops and boutique kitchenware stores to open up and attract more folks like Zach and I. I remember learning somewhere that landlords actually get tax breaks on vacant retail space, so there’s actually quite a bit of incentive for this sort of behaviour.

But nonetheless, across the street there’s been construction for a while on the soon-to-open Breukelen Coffee House (blogged about on I Love Franklin Avenue here). Exciting! Hooray! Now I don’t have to walk the full block to the Glass Shop when I need out of the house for some reading-and-coffee.

Except, maybe not so much.

There’s been a lot of discussion about this new cafe on the Crown Heights message board (excuse: I got sort of addicted to the message board after I fell down the stairs and couldn’t explore the neigbourhod on foot. Thanks, internet), including posts from the owners who describe the new cafe as such:

The Breukelen Coffee House is a holistic and organic coffee shop. Our intention is to serve organic whenever we can (we are aiming for 100% of the time- but it’s not always available and accessible).

We are proudly serving Stumptown Organic Coffee. And organic milks: almond, hazelnut, oat and hemp milk. Milk will not be available nor conventional sugar. We will only be serving non processed, all natural sweetners such as stevia, agave syrup and Manuka honey.

We’ll also have delicious organic smoothies!

Equally important are the holistic workshops we’ll be holding. They will focus on proper breath, proper hydration, eating with ‘life foods’, etc, etc.

Our motto is: Order anything from our menu without guilt! Holistic, healthy eating is what we do and where we pride ourselves.

Last but not least- we’ve heard your requests! We will adjust our weekend hours of operation to:

Mon-Fri 7:00AM-7:00PM
Sat 7:00AM-6:00PM
Sun 7:00AM-5:00PM

And here is a photograph of the space. It’s not my photo, but it could be, because this is pretty much what I see when I leave the front door of my apartment. It’s slightly unsettling to share a corner of the city with someone I don’t know who blogs about it all the time, with overly wide-eyed enthusiasm (look! a new bus shelter!), but that’s neither here nor there.
breukelen coffee house

So the discussion on the board is mostly “milk please,” for a few different reasons, mostly “I want it” and “you’ll lose customers.” In truth, I would like real milk (which could be bought from Ronnybrook at the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market once a week, and be walked over to the store and support local economies and upstate farms), and it probably will push people over the also soon-to-open cafe run by Tony Fisher of Fisher’s Market (actually the cafe which started the thread on the message board), who does a good job of keeping me away from his store by talking too much about the number of hot girls in the shop over on his twitter account.

But really, this shop seems to be sending a big f-you to the neighbourhood, which is now mostly discount stores and roti shops and hair braiding. I would like more retail diversity, yes, but this just seems like it’s skipping over too many steps in a reasonable evolution, and ignoring a whole mess of people who really would just buy coffee and a brownie if they could. I think agave nectar and almond milk are good things (though I am much less fond of the reported hollistic health workshops–seriously, gag me with a spoon and then maybe buy me a beer), but to the exclusion of other things is to the exclusion of other people.

As David says, “white people are great, but they’re not the end-all be-all.”

I just want to say that I was really really wrong! I let my cynicism get in the way of generosity, and that’ not fair. The Breukelen Coffee Shop is actually a wonderful addition to the neighbourhood, it’s full of all sorts of people, and the owners are three incredibly great people. I’m sorry for being mean and suspicious! -Dory

3 Responses to “on coffee and neighbourhoods”


  1. 1 kurt Wong

    i wished i was there to argue the merits/demerits of this shop with you! and we still need to have some heart-to-hearts on capital-G Gentrification!

  2. 2 lauren ahkiam

    sticking to your guns and avoiding douchebaggery is a difficult balance to strike! certainly one wouldn’t expect a vegan joint to offer milk, or a kosher joint a cheeseburger, but a coffee joint with no milk in a mixed neighborhood seems more iffy (i think because their primary goal is coffee and not vegandom).

    “I would like more retail diversity, yes, but this just seems like it’s skipping over too many steps in a reasonable evolution,” this is a great point and one of the big grrs about gentrification. since their opening in what was vacant it’s not like their shop is directly displacing anyone, but if the vacancies are due to the creepy landbanking in wait for top hipster-serving $ as you suggest, that is yucky feeling, as is ignoring the needs/preferences of the long term residents.

    and all this is why we are plannerds :)

  3. 3 Dory

    Yes. Why isn’t “yucky-feeling” a more reasonable term to describe things?

Leave a Reply