Bushwick

Vintage stilettos and singing sharks: Come see Knickerbocker Avenue

April 26, 2019 Lore Croghan
This is Kraupner Pharmacy, seen from Knickerbocker Plaza. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Geeks, fashionistas and foodies should feel right at home on Knickerbocker Avenue.

The shops on this Bushwick commercial corridor sell products that appeal to all of them — from gauzy formal wear to collectible Transformer toys to staggeringly good cannoli.

The street is lined with low-rise buildings, many of them old-fashioned, historic properties. It’s a swell place for a springtime stroll. I say this about a lot of Brooklyn neighborhoods, but it’s true.

Start this walk on the plaza beside the M train’s Knickerbocker Avenue elevated station, which is right by the intersection of Myrtle Avenue.

Welcome to Knickerbocker Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Welcome to Knickerbocker Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

According to a city Small Business Services report about Bushwick’s commercial corridors, residents call Knickerbocker Plaza “el parque de los viejos” — which means “the old people’s park” — because retirees like to spend time there.

The first shop you should go to is right across the street from Knickerbocker Plaza.

The cutest scrub brush in town

Kraupner Pharmacy is a specialty pharmacy accredited to handle infertility and fertility drugs.

“Helping couples make their dream come true is really important,” pharmacy tech Annette Aponte said when I visited the shop at 457 Knickerbocker Ave.

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But there’s a lighter side to the product lineup, too. It includes a wide range of 99-cent items. The ones that store owner Gary Goffner picks out which seem a bit weird to store manager Priscilla Diaz wind up selling well.

Like the 99-cent sweat socks he decided to put on the shelves. Now they’re a staple item at the store.

Goffner picked out oil-and-vinegar cruets that are 99 cents apiece. Diaz thought they didn’t belong in a pharmacy — but they’re selling.

Meet pharmacy tech Annette Aponte (at left) and sales rep Yoselin Ortega of Kraupner Pharmacy. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Meet pharmacy tech Annette Aponte (at left) and sales rep Yoselin Ortega of Kraupner Pharmacy. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The 99-cent items were introduced about a year ago to enable customers to do one-stop shopping at Kraupner, sales rep Yoselin Ortega said.

It was fun to check out the bargain-priced items looking for surprises. There were 99-cent oven mitts, 99-cent pill organizers, a zillion varieties of 99-cent lip gloss and candy canes marked down to 29 cents per box.

My most charming find was a battalion of 99-cent EZ DUZZIT-brand scrub brushes that have faces painted on them like dolls and are covered in paper packaging that looks like dresses. The colors of the brush bristles make them look like brunettes, blondes or redheads.

I say three cheers to anything that adds a little fun to doing kitchen chores.

his scrub brush is so quirky that I just had to buy it. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This scrub brush is so quirky that I just had to buy it. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

By the way, Kraupner Pharmacy has been in business since 1897, its website says. That’s serious longevity.

A French princess-style phone and superb stilettos

Oh, the nostalgia.

Check out the old-fashioned rotary phone Deysi Flores keeps on hand at D & B Vintage, the shop at 1352 Greene Ave. she co-owns with her sister Brenda. The store is so close to the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue that I included it in this shopping stroll.

Vintage co-owner Deysi Flores holds a French princess-style phone. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Vintage co-owner Deysi Flores holds a French princess-style phone. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

But more about the French princess-style phone… In the middle of the rotary dial, there’s a sketch of a woman’s face.

As her choice of the coolest thing in the store, Brenda Flores selected a $10 pair of stilettos with gold-colored metal heels. The shoes are made of embroidered fabric rather than leather.

The vintage-clothing prices at D & B range from $5 for blouses to $25 for floor-length gowns. Shoes are $10 to $15 per pair.

Brenda Flores, who co-owns D & B Vintage, shows off a glamorous stiletto. There’s actually a pair of the shoes, which are priced at $10. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Brenda Flores, who co-owns D & B Vintage, shows off a glamorous stiletto. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Baby Sharks are trendy

The coolest item at Ninos Club is the plush Baby Shark toy, said Tim Liu, a clerk.

The $19.99 toy shark sings “a song as infectious as anthrax,” Daniel Victor of the New York Times wrote in a January story. The song made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart that week — likely because of kids watching on YouTube.

The Ninos Club sells singing Baby Shark toys, which are a trendy item. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The Ninos Club sells singing Baby Shark toys. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Ninos Club, which sells formula, strollers, toys and other products for babies and small kids,
is located at 353 Knickerbocker Ave.

A party dress fit for a princess

This time of year the inventory at 338 Desire Boutique, which sells clothes for teens and young women, focuses heavily on formal wear, shop owner Jaenny Lee said. ’Tis the season for graduations and proms.

A glamorous standout among the oodles of lovely party dresses at 338 Knickerbocker Ave. is a two-piece dove gray ensemble made of gauzy fabric. Its midriff-baring top is beautifully beaded.

A woman who was in the store trying on dresses agreed to have her picture taken while modeling the beautiful $105 outfit.

Juno Vanadium poses in a lovely two-piece ensemble at 338 Desire Boutique. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Juno Vanadium poses in a lovely two-piece ensemble at 338 Desire Boutique. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Her name is Juno Vanadium. She’s a bass guitarist in a band and an “alternative model,” she said.

Pizza made with fresh basil

Tony’s Pizza is located in the corner building. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Tony’s Pizza is located in the corner building. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Tony’s Pizza at 336 Knickerbocker Ave. is a Bushwick institution that has been in business since 1969.

The pizza that customers love the most is the margherita, said one of the workers, Gilberto Rodriguez. It is made with whole fresh basil leaves, fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Gilberto Rodriguez shows me a margherita pie at Tony’s Pizza. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Gilberto Rodriguez shows me a massive margherita pie at Tony’s Pizza. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

It’s priced at $4.25 per slice and $26.50 for a large pie.

Custom-made fondant cakes

Circo’s Pastry Shop has even more longevity than Tony’s Pizza. The Sicilian dessert maker opened in 1945.

Back in the day, Bushwick was full of Sicilian businesses. Most of them have disappeared.

“We’re the last of the Mohicans,” said Anthony Pierdipino, the bakery’s co-owner.

The building on the corner is Circo’s Pastry Shop. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The building on the corner is Circo’s Pastry Shop. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Custom cakes made with fondant are a big deal at Circo’s. They are priced starting at $200.

Fondant is a sugar paste that’s rolled out into a smooth sheet that is used to cover a cake or make special shapes.

It takes three days to make this kind of cake. “Even though it looks simple, a lot of time goes into it,” he said.

It takes two days to make cakes that have photos replicated on their whipped-cream icing. They are priced starting at $50.

The cannoli is $3.25 apiece. Rainbow cookies are $16 per pound and fig cookies are $10 per pound.

Anthony Pierdipino shows me some of Circo’s Pastry Shop’s beloved desserts. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Anthony Pierdipino shows me some of Circo’s Pastry Shop’s beloved desserts. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

A Transformer named Fort Max

Transformers are so much more than toys.

“A Transformer is a vehicle. It’s an action figure. And it’s a puzzle, like a Rubik’s cube, almost,” an artist named Bizzid told me when I dropped into collectibles shop Second Time Around at 300 Knickerbocker Ave.

His brother Pat Dellaratta, who owns the store, is an expert on comic books, which the shop also sells.

Bizzid chose as the coolest item in the store an enormous Transformer named Fort Max that was made in 1987. It’s priced at $250; though it’s three decades old, it’s got all its bits and pieces.

Pat Dellaratta at left and his brother, who uses the name Bizzid, pose with collectible Transformers at Dellaratta’s shop, Second Time Around. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Pat Dellaratta at left and his brother, who uses the name Bizzid, pose with collectible Transformers at Dellaratta’s shop, Second Time Around. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Did you know that Fort Max turns into a city? As a real estate nerd, I find this idea intriguing.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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