Often chided as the “hipster” or “stroller central” outer borough, Brooklyn, New York, is home to a thriving and diverse small business scene.
We scoured its 71 square miles, as far north as Greenpoint and deep as Bay Ridge, to find the shops, restaurants, bars, and startups worth the trek from Manhattan.
What sets this collection apart from our regular Coolest Small Businesses lists is the number of companies run by native Brooklynites.
“Owning a business in Brooklyn, as a lot of my family members had in generations before me, means a lot in terms of being able to make something and sell it in a place I was born and raised,” says Bridget Firtle, owner of small-batch distillery The Noble Experiment NYC. “It’s super rewarding.”
For this list we focused on businesses that opened within the past five years or so. Know a cool business we missed? Let us know in the comments.
What it is: An upscale Italian marketplace.
Why it's cool: Louis Coluccio, born and raised in the Brooklyn neighbourhood where his grandfather started an Italian food importing business some 50 years ago, opened the upscale marketplace A.L.C. Italian Grocery in 2012 as a nod to traditional Italian salumerias.
The quick-service menu walks the line between old-school Italian and earthy-crunchy, serving both arancini -- rice balls stuffed with fresh risotto, reggiano cheese, and parsley -- and raw kale salad with beets.
What it is: A neighbourhood ice cream shop with addicting flavours.
Why it's cool: Named as a nod to a Walt Whitman Poem, Ample Hills Creamery is a new Brooklyn institution that churns out, quite literally, the best ice cream in the borough. Popular flavours include salted crack caramel, ooey gooey butter cake, and the munchies -- a pretzel-infused ice cream with bits of Ritz crackers, potato chips, and mini M&Ms.
Founders Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna recently published a book of their best stories and recipes.
What it is: A gift shop for the person who has everything.
Why it's cool: Annie's Blue Ribbon is the store with anything and everything for people who love anything and everything. Browse the shelves full of Ryan Gosling colouring books, rockabilly temporary tattoos, wine candles, maps of all the best burger joints in New York, and other assorted tchotchkes. The shop also sells a ton of Brooklyn-themed goods and products.
What it is: A wine shop that reflects the diversity of the neighbourhood.
Why it's cool: Residents of Bed-Stuy, a neighbourhood undergoing rapid gentrification and rent hikes, are calling Bed-Vyne Wine one of the few trendy, new spots 'doing it right.' It offers an eclectic selection of wines at low, medium, and high price points, allowing more people to explore the exciting world of boutique wine.
A community establishment through and through, Bed-Vyne Wine displays art that rotates on a monthly basis and makes podcasts from local musicians available.
What it is: Brooklyn-born artisanal pickles.
Why it's cool: Brooklyn Brine sells all manner of pickles, from New York deli-style to whiskey sour pickles to ones that are hopped and pickled with Dogfish Head Brewery's 60 Minute IPA. But it's not just cucumbers that they're working with -- they also pickle banana peppers, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage, and they do it all in-house.
You can get their pickles at their brinery, at grocery stores around the country, or from their pickle-centric restaurant, Pickle Shack.
What it is: A jewelry store that turns you into the designer.
Why it's cool: Brooklyn Charm has hundreds of charms, pendants, and chains to choose from so that you can put what you want together in a seemingly endless combination of necklaces, bracelets, and brooches. Brooklyn Charm has its own storefront in Williamsburg, but often sets up shop at Smorgasburg, Chelsea Market, Artists & Fleas, and Union Square during the holidays.
What it is: A Nordic coffee shop, beer bar, and design goods store.
Why it's cool: Búđin (pronounced 'booth-in'), which is Icelandic for 'the shop,' opened in Greenpoint earlier this year and made headlines with its $10 specialty latte. But beyond that, it's a cool concept store that centres around Nordic coffee and alcoholic drinks, and home goods. Búđin recently got its liquor licence, and began serving beer and wine this month.
What it is: The only store that exclusively sells products made in Brooklyn.
Why it's cool: By Brooklyn is more than just a shop -- it's also a community space for artisans to meet, connect, and proudly showcase their work, whether that's jewelry, stationery, edible goods, or artwork. By Brooklyn also serves as a private event venue and supplies weddings and corporate functions with unique favours.
What it is: A Korean-Uzbek fusion restaurant.
Why it's cool: Few restaurants embody the history of 'Little Russia' better than this oddly named, hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
In the 1930s, Stalin forcibly relocated the Koreo Saram population from the Soviet Far East to what is now Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, welding together a new ethnically mixed culture. As a result, this exotic eatery is run by an ethnically Korean woman who only speaks Russian.
What it is: A brewpub that nods to Greenpoint's first settler.
Why it's cool: Ship builder Dirck Volckertsen first planted his Scandinavian feet on American soil when he dropped anchor off Greenpoint in 1626. Today Dirck the Norseman crafts beer and Northern European eats just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where Volckertsen's farmhouse used to stand. DTN offers 16 types of beer, more than half of which are highly rated and brewed in-house.
What it is: The first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse built in the U.S.
Why it's cool: Gotham Greens is based in Brooklyn, but designs, sets up, and builds commercial greenhouses in urban areas around the United States to make sure that everyone has access to fresh, quality produce. In doing so, Gotham Greens hopes to start patching up some of the severe ecological issues in American agriculture. Gotham Greens harvests over 100 tons of produce every year.
What it is: A coworking space and maker of quirky and inspirational products and events.
Why it's cool: If you've ever visited a New York startup, you may have seen Holstee's 'manifesto' poster tacked to the wall. The company's goal is to create 'products and events that help us remember what's important.' Holstee's motivational soliloquies appear on posters, cards, and frames, and the space hosts workshops like 'How To Get Out Of Your Inbox And Focus On Important Stuff.' Entrepreneurs and freelancers can also rent desks there.
What it is: An 'American tasting room.'
Why it's cool: Every night a different chef from a rotating roaster comes and cooks up a menu in their expertise. The chefs come from Brooklyn Brewery, Best Pizza, and OTB, among other places. Diners can expect tasting menus that run the gamut from beer cheese to charcuterie to pork belly cracklins to a variety of bar snacks. The food is expertly paired with wine, beer, and cocktails. But it's not a restaurant, according to owner Bill Reed, so if you go expecting a full meal, you're bound to be disappointed.
What it is: Outdoor-inspired apparel with complimentary beer, vodka, and music.
Why it's cool: Leisure Life NYC creates a unique retail experience that's geared toward professional men who enjoy a rugged look and lifestyle. Clothing and accessories air on the vintage side, and are curated from the store's own in-house brand products as well as lesser-known progressive brands. The shopping experience comes with complimentary beer or vodka and DJ'ed music.
What it is: A Kickstarter-funded, New England clam bake-themed restaurant.
Why it's cool: Littleneck makes it possible to get authentic, New England-style, beachside seafood dishes right here in New York. Sit down with a cold beer and a lobster roll or fried whole belly Ipswich clam roll and take a load off. It may not be like your Cape Cod vacation, but it's pretty darn close. The restaurant just opened a Greenpoint outpost this summer.
What it is: A meat- and leather-using company that makes sure no part of the animals go to waste.
Why it's cool: Andrew Tarlow and Kate Huling are the husband and wife team that take food and fashion and turn it into one interconnected business. They work with slaughterhouses to not only come by the beef they use in dishes at their Brooklyn restaurants Diner and Roman's, but they ensure that the leather and wool also goes to good use, making and selling impressive leather and wool products for their Marlow Goods brand. Tarlow and Huling also own a butcher shop, a bakery, and a number of other related businesses.
What it is: The first specialty matcha tea cafe in New York City.
Why it's cool: Brothers Max and Graham Fortgang opened MatchaBar to share their love of matcha, what they considered a less intense alternative to coffee. The cafe serves hot and iced matcha teas, iced specialty drinks, and Matchaccino, a matcha cappuccino made with almond milk and vanilla powder.
MatchaBar sources its less-caffeinated energy-boosting matcha from a fifth-generation family farm in Nishio, Japan, where they learned the craft of making a quality cup of tea.
What it is: A hip, French bistro with eclectic DJ parties.
Why it's cool: The new kid on this bodega-filled Bushwick block is the memorable Mominette, a French restaurant that aces the classics, like Escargot and Creme Brulee, while also serving up a mean mac and cheese. The dishes and drinks are complemented by Bushwick Co-op sourced veggies.
On weekends, be sure to stick around for the weekly DJ parties, which ramp up toward the end of dinner and run until 4 a.m.
What it is: A small-batch, 100% domestic rum distillery.
Why it's cool: The Noble Experiment NYC, a nod to Prohibition's nickname, is owned by a born-and-bred Brooklynite, Bridget Firtle. The distillery aims to revive an industry that once thrived on small batch, hand-crafted spirits. Its all-natural, premium quality rum uses 100% domestic ingredients.
What it is: A walk-in shuffleboard club.
Why it's cool: Stepping into the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is like entering a 1950s Floridian resort, complete with teal walls, umbrella drinks, cabanas instead of booths, and rows upon rows of shuffleboard lanes.
Guests can rent courts for $US40 per hour on a first-come, first-served basis.
What it is: A florist shop that specialises in 'living sculptures.'
Why it's cool: It started on a whim. Michelle Inciarrano, a lifelong plant lover, persuaded her sceptical poet friend, Katy Maslow, to gather some mosses and repurpose a cruet jar from her kitchen cabinet.
Today, Twig crafts terrariums in all types of glass vessels, such as light bulbs, gumball machines, tiny perfume bottles, and chemistry flasks. Each creation contains something unique, 'a snapshot in miniature of one's daily life or passions' -- whether beachgoer figurines laying out, sheep grazing on rolling hills, or Stormtroopers engaged in battle.
What it is: A hand-blended perfumes and cologne boutique.
Why it's cool: Twisted Lily curates small-batch, artisanal perfumes and colognes that you can't find in big box stores. Its scents range from a fresh coriander-infused perfume from Brooklyn-based D.S. & Durga to the Opus II from French parfumerie Amouage, which, with notes of absinthe and cedarwood, is meant to evoke thoughts of a library.
What it is: A loft-like bar and restaurant with decadent pub fare.
Why it's cool: Dinner at Two Door Tavern feels like attending a dinner party at your hippest friend's loft. The restaurant has tons of natural light, exposed brick walls, and a raised dining area.
Stop by during happy hour for $US4 select drafts and $US5 margaritas, or take part in the daily food special. Tuesdays are Wing Nights (a bucket of wings and an hour of all-you-can-drink drafts for $US15) and Wednesdays are $US5 burger nights.
What it is: A rustic townhouse turned boutique hotel.
Why it's cool: 'A modern luxury Brooklyn townhouse with industrial Williamsburg and cowboy sensibilities,' this teeny tiny hotel has just four guest rooms, starting at $US100 a night. Guests have access to the townhouse's hot tub, backyard cabin, and an open parlor floor, complete with wide plank pine floors, exposed brick, and a pot belly stove.
What it is: A 'Dr. Who' and steampunk-themed bar.
Why it's cool: The Way Station is the go-to hideout for Whovians to watch 'Dr. Who' season premieres and hear cover bands paying homage. The cocktail menu is filled with nods to the show, such as the Sonic Screwdriver (what the Doctor calls his signature multitool) and the Captain Jack Harkness (another space-travelling hottie).
The bathroom is a life-sized TARDIS, the name of the time machine on the show -- and yes, it's bigger on the inside.
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