Brooklyn Only Foods specializes in Kings County artisanal goods
New Brooklyn Heights grocery is all Brooklyn, all the time
Most Brooklyn Heights residents are familiar with Jamel Othman’s Heights Falafel restaurant and takeout shop at 78 Henry St. Last week, his son, Karim Othman, opened an unusual business next door bearing the same address — Brooklyn Only Foods, a grocery store selling only products made in the borough.
Karim Othman grew up in Park Slope and went to Packer Collegiate Institute in the Heights and SUNY Purchase in Westchester County. He previously was an intern at Blue Hill restaurant and farm at Stone Barns Center, 30 miles north of New York City. Blue Hill focuses on sustainability, locally sourced ingredients and relationships with other local farms and local businesses. It was the concept of locality that inspired him to open Brooklyn Only.
“There are many stores that carry Brooklyn-made products,” Othman said, giving the example of 61 Local, a pub on Bergen Street that carries Chocolate Chip Banana Bread by Dank, a Brooklyn company. However, he wanted to spotlight Brooklyn-made food products in a way that other stores haven’t done before.
On Tuesday afternoon, the store was filled with well-wishers and Othman’s mother, Lisa Rosettie, who was working behind the counter. Othman showed off the products he carries. Some of them included:
Coffee from D’Amico Coffee Roasters at 309 Court St., a beloved neighborhood institution since 1948.
Horseradish, mustard, borscht and other products from Gold’s Pure Foods, a company started in Brooklyn in 1932.
Healthy juice drinks from Ralph and Charlie’s, located at 169 Gardner Ave. in Bushwick.
JoMart hand-made chocolates. The company is located on Avenue R and has been in business since 1946.
Michael’s of Brooklyn spaghetti sauce. Michael’s of Brooklyn, a restaurant that is also located on Avenue R, has been a neighborhood institution since 1964 and recently started marketing its sauce, Othman said
Brooklyn Grange Hot Sauce, made from peppers and herbs grown on the company’s rooftop farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Othman said he didn’t establish his business with the aid of trade associations, online groups or alumni groups. Rather, he did it the old-fashioned way, with shoe leather and by phone. “I’d visit a [food company], and if they said no, I’d come back again and also call,” he said. He also got help from his parents.
Brooklyn Only Foods also has an art gallery, As of Now Gallery, that can be reached down a flight of stairs. It is run by Othman’s friend Austin Siegert, a painter who was interested in having a space where he could showcase other artists.
“I thought it was a great idea because the people who would want local sustainable foods from Brooklyn might also be the type of people interested in local artists,” Siegert told the Brooklyn Heights Blog.
The space occupied by Brooklyn Only Foods was previously occupied by Heights Car and Limo, a business that averaged two stars on Yelp.
Brooklyn Only Foods isn’t the first store with the mission of selling only goods made in Brooklyn. By Brooklyn, on Smith Street, sold a variety of borough-made goods, ranging from food products to jewelry and home decor.
By Brooklyn closed in 2016, and its sister store in Williamsburg closed the year before. At the time, DNAinfo quoted owner Gaia DiLoreto as saying, “Even if I were to renew my lease, there’s not enough traffic on Smith Street to support my business.” She also told DNAinfo that as local residents in Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens grow older and settle down, fewer of them go out and patronize local businesses.
In another effort to promote locally made products, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce sponsors a certification program known as Made in Brooklyn. Its website says that “only legal businesses headquartered in Brooklyn making one or more physical products will be considered.”
These businesses are extremely diverse — among the newest round of Brooklyn-Made Certified products and companies, approved in January 2018, are Fine & Raw Chocolate, Pecoraro Cheese, Moto Spirits Distillery, AUZ Design Studio, Katherine Forst Mosaics, Five Boroughs Brewing Co., Sam’s Granola and Luke Malaney Furniture.
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