The Van Brunt: A Stroll Down Red Hook’s “Main Street”
Story and photos by Laura Leton
One of my very favorite places in all of New York, especially when summertime hits full force is Red Hook. Not only does it have the most amazing public pool ever (a Robert Moses relic), Red Hook feels a bit like what old Brooklyn must have felt like in the past. Despite the enormous Fairway and an Ikea, the place retains its quaintness and out of New York worldliness with many cobble stoned streets and relatively few visitors since it is not subway friendly (the closest stop is the F Train at Smith Street and that is quite a hike).
Given its hidden-away nature, it is surprising that Red Hook has a really great, really tiny shopping strip., If you have some time this summer I greatly recommend checking out this section of Van Brunt, what I would describe as Red Hook’s Main Street.
Metal and Thread: Starting at the intersection of Van Brunt just north of Coffee Street there is Metal and Thread. A very rustic shop focused primarily on very affordable, very interesting and unique jewelry. This shop has tons of affordable pieces for men and women. With lots of metals, there are plenty of great looking, unique rings (lots of mesh) some fun huge chunky necklaces and even some great art pieces to collect as well as a few pieces of furniture. Price point really starts at $50 but doesn’t go too high above that so it is great if you’re on a budget.
Metal and Thread | 398 Van Brunt Street | 718.414.9651
Foxy & Winston: Jane Buck is definitely one of Brooklyn’s treasures. Jane, a British native (lucky for us) is an incredible graphic designer and illustrates the absolute cutest stationery around which she then places on fantastic card stock. She is a creature gal – everything from rabbits to ostriches and even rats – she has a cute notecard for every occasion. She also silkscreens lots of little gifty things like canvas grocery bags or onesies for the little ones. Her work is around town at plenty of spots, but it is always fun to meet Jane in person as she’s usually the one manning the adorable shop.
Foxy & Winston | 392 Van Brunt Street | 718.928.4855
Redlipstick: After a move last year from Prospect Heights, Redlipstick has settled in quite nicely into Red Hook filling out a need for a little bit of fun clothing. The owner Stacey Joy Elkin was a knitwear designer for years before setting up her own shop so in the colder months the knits are really a highlight here. Glorious scarves, great socks and hats, some of which Staceyjoy knits herself, are really fantastic. She also has a great selection of very affordable fun blouses, pants and shorts, as well as just a nice assortment of fun things – a little jewelry, some kiddie things (or things for big kids) and other knickknacks.
Redlipstick | 390 Van Brunt Street | 718.599.1550
Erie Basin: If Metal and Thread doesn’t quite do it for you in the jewelry department, Erie Basin definitely will. With a much higher price point, Erie Basin specializes in gorgeous vintage and antique pieces. A small, dark, romantic shop, Erie Basin’s owner Russell Whitmore has an eclectic collection that takes him around the country finding 19th and 20th century treasures. They’re especially known for their brooches and incredible engagement rings in case you’re looking for something a little more unusual. The stock changes constantly so it’s always fun to take a look and see what’s been found.
Erie Basin | 388 Van Brunt Street | 718.554.6147
Baked: In case you’re tired and need a little sugar, this is the spot. I have had cupcakes nearly everywhere in New York City and Baked still tops the list for the best in my book. Not too sweet, with some great flavorings (love the salty caramel for example) and I like the small ones so you don’t have to overdose. They also do a great line of fantastic brownies (extra nice that these come well wrapped and can easily last a week or so) and then they are always experimenting with something fun. They have some very tasty moon pies, cakes as well as other savory pastries. While they do have some lunch goodies, I would stick with the sweet stuff, and they make a mighty fine ice tea.
Baked | 359 Van Brunt Street | 718.222.0345
Fort Defiance: And in case sugar is not what you’re looking for, Fort Defiance is the place for a cocktail. With a focus on the classic cocktails being made by some very experienced bar hands, everything is expertly concocted and delicious. They have the classics like a Tom Collins and a Manhattan or some of their own concoctions like the Warwick Bramble (gin, blackberries, lemon and black currant liqueur) or the Colonial Cooler, their version of the Pimm’s cup. Food can be a bit more hit or miss but for a leisurely drink in this really great speakeasy-like space nothing could be better.
Fort Defiance | 365 Van Brunt Street | 247.453.6672
Saipua: Last but not least, as it is not on Van Brunt, don’t forget to go visit Saipua. Just a couple of blocks away, this tiny but incredible flower and soap shop is a real find. First off the flowers are amazing. Somehow, they find the most interesting, most beautiful collections and put them together. You can of course order for occasions, or I like to just ask them to put something together for me when I’m there. I’m never disappointed. Or if you want to figure out how to work their magic yourself, they have started a flower school which might be a must activity for summer and then don’t about forget the soaps. My favorite is Saltwater, but they have some great other options including a Gardners version made with rosemary and mint designed to get the grit off, or their new Basil soap scented with Hungarian pressed basil and a little lime oil.
Saipua | 147 Van Dyke Street | 718.624.2929