WILLIAMSBURG — After his 7-year-old Bedford Avenue cafe was ravaged by a fire this winter, J.D. Merget thought "many a time" of abandoning the shop altogether and focusing on his other two locations instead. But soon clients and even nearby businesses he didn't know shocked him with a deluge of support.
"It'll be hard to open without tearing up," Merget said of Oslo Coffee's Bedford locale, which he said would be back in business within 10 days. "Everybody wanted to help."
The grassroots aid, ranging from a fundraiser at Lucky Dog bar for Oslo staff who lost their jobs to restaurants' catered lunches at staff meetings, shocked Merget so deeply that it transformed his vision of the area as a whole, he said.
"As much as I've had a hard time with the neighborhood's growth and changes it reconnected me with my neighbors," he said, noting how Bedford Avenue's gentrification over the years had brought in new business owners he hadn't necessarily known.
But now, even strangers he said had pitched in to help the popular cafe, which also has locations on Williamsburg's Roebling Street and on the Upper East Side.
"It makes me feel closer to the neighborhood," he said suppressing a tear, outside the Roebling Street spot.
So after months of struggling with his insurance company and replacing all the sheetrock, cabinets and countertops, Merget said his Bedford Avenue spot was ready to reopen.
"Of course it's going to be nicer than before," he said, holding his Oslo cup and smiling.