Crown Heights Thrift Shop 'Cool Pony' Mixes Live Music, Puppet Cabaret

By Sonja Sharp on March 1, 2013 8:35am 

 Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman, co-owners of Franklin Avenue's Cool Pony in front of their Crown Heights store.
Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman, co-owners of Franklin Avenue's Cool Pony in front of their Crown Heights store.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

CROWN HEIGHTS — Moppets out, muppets in.

Just a month after Franklin Avenue's beloved Candy Rush closed down, gates over the erstwhile home of Baby French and Crown Heights' own little slice of Sesame Street rolled up to reveal fresh coat of Day-Glo paint, a new set of bright cartoon creatures in the window and brand new name: Cool Pony.

"We’re doing selective thrift and live music and eventually food," said co-owner Ariane Ben Eli, who plans to stock the store and performance space with the best leftovers from her Gowanus-based moving business, The Super Movers.

"Every person who moves has a bag of clothes that they don’t want. We get sofas all the time because it doesn’t fit in someone’s apartment. We get a lot of pianos, lamps," Ben Eli explained. "Once we got a submarine."

Don't expect to see aquatic vehicles in the Franklin Avenue storefront, though shoppers can find just about anything else there.

"It'll be crated thrift, old-timey stuff, western stuff, stuff we think is cool," said co-owner Craig Judelman, who met Ben Eli and landlords Kevin and Garnett Phillip through the Occupy Sandy relief effort. "Jewelry, records, 78s from the '10s and '20s, musical instruments undoubtedly. We’re probably going to carry some local fashion designers, custom designs and alterations."

Oh, and puppets.

"There’s a puppet renaissance going on right now," Judelman said. "We want to have a venue for puppet theater because there really aren't that many."

The music venue-slash-puppet-theater will specialize in western and country, with a bit of indie and lo-fi thrown in the four-night-a-week mix. There may be beer and wine. There may be pickles and chocolate. There may be zines. There may be puppet cabaret shows, two-step and metal karaoke.

Ok, no metal karaoke. That'd just be ridiculous.

"Kevin and Garnett wanted us to continue to do family-oriented stuff," Judelman said. "We had a pre-opening last weekend with a square dance, a puppet making workshop for kids, and puppet shows."

There will also be puppet cabaret, though Cool Pony's offerings mostly tend toward the wholesome. Even the name is endearingly innocent — Ben Eli's thoroughly urbanized kindergartener coined the phrase to describe the unfamiliar furry mammal she met on an upstate farm.

"[She] walked up and pointed at a goat and said’ that’s a cool pony'," Ben Eli said. "We started calling all four-legged furry animals cool ponies."

Though nothing will ever quite replace Candy Rush's fist-sized jawbreakers and pinwheel lollipops, the puppet-making workshop has already earned Cool Pony some pint-sized fans on the block.

"Kids from the neighborhood came back and asked if we were going to do it again. There’s something really dynamic about making a little avatar and making it talk," Ben Eli said. "You can actually make something that’s unique and wonderful and has a story."

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