Breaking news: it’s too damn cold + neighborhood ramblings

January 26, 2014 |  Category:   life nyc





It’s saying something when 32 degrees feels downright balmy because it’s been in the teens or 20s for much of January. I look outside the window and don’t see as many people walking around. All these people in the city holed up in their apartments, too cold to go outside. The Christmas trees in front of our building were finally picked up this week, but there are still trees piled up in front of other buildings, probably too buried in old dirty frozen snow to be removed. Brooklyn, you are looking quite sad right now. But I love you anyway.


We went to a Nets game Friday night and it’s always a shock to see 18,000 people in one place. That arena is built so steeply that you can’t avoid getting vertigo when you climb up the steps to your seats. It seems…unsafe?? I had to hold on to the child when she kept jumping up and down with flailing arms in a futile attempt to get on the jumbotron because I was afraid she’d tumble down. The guys in the row in front of us, about 20 friends, tried numerous times to spell out “Let’s Go Brooklyn Nets!” in individual letters printed out in paper, but they just couldn’t get it together. They got confused as to which way the letters should read, and then when they finally passed out all the letters in the right sequence, couldn’t quite coordinate themselves to hold up the letters in unison. A comedy of errors, but so damn entertaining. I guess they wanted to get on the jumbotron as badly as my kid did.
Barclays Center has a local food court inside the arena where Brooklyn businesses sell food. The whole Nets/Barclay experience pushes the Brooklyn thing so hard. I’m totally a cynic, but I don’t buy it because I know they’re trying to endear the borough to a team that relocated from Jersey, so the whole thing is over the top and a little too try-hard. But sports is weird like that and loyalties can’t be rationalized; once a Knicks fan, always a Knicks fan (no matter how much they’re sucking right now – and they are sucking bad). So how ironic is it that the one day we go to a Nets game, there’s a historic night happening across the river at Madison Square Garden where a Knick (Melo) single-handedly scores 62 points and breaking records? So here I am at a live game, checking my phone and wishing I were at home watching that game instead. But I’ll stop boring you about sports because no one I know seems to care about sports anyway. I guess it’s not twee or hipster enough like playing Bocce ball at a bar, drinking a microbrew with locally roasted artisanal nuts.
I’m finding the whole commodification of Brooklyn to be a bit much these days. This extends to the gleaming new Whole Foods that opened last month in our neighborhood. I mean, they have a section where vinyl records are for sale and there’s a big wall mural with illustrations of local purveyor portraits (in chalk, of course). It’s the most Brooklyn-iest thing under one roof, ever. Surprisingly, it’s the first Whole Foods to be built in Brooklyn and it took about 10 years to happen. Why so long? Well, it’s built near a Superfund site (yeah, I know), and just like the Barclays Center, was a much heated debate by the community and neighborhood for years. By and large, there aren’t many big box stores and chains in residential areas of Brooklyn, but they have been slowly moving in over the last decade because of the exorbitant rents. I imagine commercial property landlords view chains as a more stable tenant when turnover rates are so high with this economy, but the majority of the businesses in our neighborhood, for example, are still small businesses. So when something big like Whole Foods or a sports arena has plans to move in, there is always going to be a faction of the community who declare that it will be the death of Brooklyn!
So, is it? We didn’t know if our grocery shopping habits would change when Whole Foods opened. We’re not Whole Foods shoppers to begin with, but despite our resistance (kinda silly, yeah) I found myself there 3 times the first week it opened. Our visits have slowed down considerably since then, but I think we were just shell shocked that the store actually did get built after so many false starts and community opposition that we went to gawk, mostly. I gotta say, it’s a really beautiful store and damn, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t convenient. In particular, I love that there’s a rooftop greenhouse where produce will be grown. We’ve discovered that if we shop carefully, there are some pretty good deals and we’re more confident in buying fish again (I’ve been a bit wary about buying fish because of all the contamination).
Maybe because I’m a small business owner – or maybe it’s because I’m a long time resident of our neighborhood – I do worry about how the local shops will fare with this big behemoth of a store now open. Are we contributing to the problem anytime we shop there, thereby taking away business from a local store we would have otherwise supported? It’s complicated, right? The Brooklyn Whole Foods is one of those cornerstone events that’s a big gamer changer in the neighborhood and it’ll be interesting to witness those changes over the course of the years, but I think ultimately it is good for the neighborhood. The store seems especially keen on contributing back and partnering with local organizations, and there’s this whole “we’re not the enemy; we’re part of your community” vibe that’s so thick you can feel it the minute you enter the store. Although we do plan on shopping there (and this was sort of a surprise for us), we’ll continue to support our local farmer’s market and other small shops around the neighborhood. Spread the money around. The store is here to stay and from appearances at least, it’s doing quite well, so seems like the best thing to do.

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  • Lakshmi January 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I end up going to Whole Foods more often this time of the year when the farmer’s markets are closed. All in all, I shop at both types of places.

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Our farmers markets are open year round, so that is great though cold for the vendors, especially this year 🙁

  • Jen January 27, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I think when you’re a small business owner (like we are) you are more in tune with how and where you spend your dollars. You have empathy for small businesses that shut down and really champion the underdogs. We don’t go to Whole Foods often but the place is pretty useful for the kind of things you can’t get at the Farmer’s Market – like laundry detergents on sale. I think the Whole Foods Brooklyn sounds great with a rooftop garden and promoting Brooklyn businesses. But going back to supporting small businesses, even if it’s a tiny speck of our contribution – that may or may not help – we’ll do things like spending just a few bucks more at our local tiny wine shop that’s been family run for 40 years rather than at the supermarket.

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 9:24 am

      Yeah, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time price comparing, but have noticed when they tweet specials. A local blog did price comparisons vs a local store here that has since become a bit of a small chain around the city and it was shockingly in favor of Whole Foods. The more fairer comparison would be how Whole Foods does vs Fairway, for example.

  • Kiana January 28, 2014 at 4:02 am

    Jenna, I love your rambling. I read the sports part aloud to my husband who was surprised that someone I like enjoys sports since my brain can’t grasp things like college vs. pro, offense vs. defense, etc. And the Brooklynized theme of Whole Foods made us both laugh. It sounds like that show Portlandia, have you ever seen it?

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

      The Brooklynized Whole Foods is a thing to behold, I tell ya. I think there are microbrews on top on the roof seating area, which I haven’t been to yet. I have seen Portlandia (and we lived there mid 90s so we lived it!). I thought the 1st season was great, but have to admit lost interest after season 2.

  • Meike January 28, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Jenna, thanks again for an interesting post. Yours is the only blog I know that actually makes me THINK. I also love the pretty pictures, though.

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Thanks Meike

  • Colleen K January 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    When we lived in Oakland, CA, we lived about 3 blocks from the brand spanking new Whole Foods. While we never considered ourselves WF people either (we usually go to the local family owned grocery store and were Fairways shoppers in NYC), we ended up there on a weekly basis because it was considerably cheaper for certain items (e.g., 2-pack of organic WF brand soymilk). Like what you’re describing with the Brooklyn WF, the Oakland WF lays on the neighborhoodiness thick but to a certain extent, the neighborhood really rallies around the WF too. With all of the traffic going in and out, we would walk down there and back at 9pm at night…which you probably wouldn’t want to do in other parts of Oakland. Now that we’re not as close, I also really miss the hot bar and prepared food sections. It saved me from many of those “Crap, I didn’t prepare anything for dinner. What are we going to eat?” nights.

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Exactly Colleen! When we’re super buys, particularly around the holiday season, it is such an easy way out for dinner and a good alternative to take out.

  • lucent imagery January 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I don’t mind the sports talk! We’ve just finished glue-ing our eyes to the tv for the Australian Open tennis. I can’t wait for the Winter Olympics to start. Our inner city area here in Australia is changing too. We’re excited for some of the changes and a little wary of some others. It’s amazing how much you can feel for a place, isn’t it?

    • Jenna January 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      I was a HUGE tennis fan when I was in high school. Obsessed. I find all sports stressful to watch on some level, but tennis especially so.

      • lucent imagery January 28, 2014 at 8:25 pm

        I know what you mean. When I watch the sports I used to do, my whole body participates in the image I’m seeing on screen. I end up sore afterwards!

  • lucent imagery January 28, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    From sitting on a couch! ha!