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Plans for Offshoot of Brooklyn Flea Causes Concern in Crown Heights

By Sonja Sharp | September 17, 2012 7:15am

CROWN HEIGHTS — A decade or so ago, when Williamsburg was better known for its Hasidim than its hipsters, Kevin Phillip bought a building on Franklin Avenue, then a rough and tumble stretch of Crown Heights.

Fast forward a few years and that building houses the popular sweet shop Candy Rush and the avenue around it is among the most coveted blocks in Brooklyn, its storefronts spit-shined to sparkling by people like Phillip and his wife Garnett, who saw potential and lovingly cultivated it.

Those who were there 'back then' share a fierce pride in the community they helped create.

So when the Candy Rush co-owners heard that blogger Jonathan Butler and his partners planned to install an artisanal food court just down the block and around the corner in the old Studebaker Service Station, they were less than pleased.

"I want to know whether it would affect any of the small business owners who've been here and helped build this community," Garnett Phillip told Butler, who founded the website Brownstoner,  in front of a 100-strong crowd at Thursday's Community Board 8 meeting.

"Have you taken the time to visit us?"

When the Brownstoner team bought the Dean Street warehouse near Franklin Avenue this past spring, they envisioned a DUMBO-style shared office space in an area sorely lacking it.

But Butler also applied for a liquor license for a 250-seat bar and restaurant that he said would feature vendors from his popular Brooklyn Flea market.

"You can get a beer from the bar and say 'I feel like having brisket tonight' or tacos, whatever the selections may be," Butler told the community board.

"We’re also creating a courtyard in the middle of it. The third piece will be a small private dining and events space."

And while some in the community see inclusion into Butler's brand — which encompasses the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene and Smorgasburg in Williamsburg — as yet another sign that they've arrived, others feared being squeezed out.

"I'm all for it as long as he's not stepping on other people's toes in the neighborhood," BCakeNY owner Miriam Milord told Phillip as they waited for Butler outside the meeting. "We want the neighborhood to be so vital that your ice cream will sell just as well as his."

Philip said she was cautiously optimistic about the project.

"I love what they're doing as long as they take the time out to consider what's already here," she said.

"I want to be sure that it's not going to diminish storefronts like ours — that it's not going to crush us."