PROSPECT HEIGHTS — When people say Brooklyn smells, it's usually a diss.
But thanks to a local entrepreneur, New Yorkers can douse themselves with the pleasantly floral, woody or fruity scents that represent the character of Red Hook, Park Slope and Bed-Stuy and many other Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Since 2006, the Kensington resident and former medical assistant Sophia Sylvester has been making her own, all-natural body care products for her business, Brooklyn Flavors. It's an effort that took shape after her three children needed a remedy for a “dry skin issue,” she said.
To make her products stand out, Sylvester created a scent for about a dozen Brooklyn neighborhoods to connect each item to her borough.
“I wasn’t born here, but I was raised here and I realized that Brooklyn has so much flavor. It’s a mosaic of cultures and colors,” she said.
To reflect that diversity, Sylvester designed the “flavors” by researching each area’s history and the background of its residents, she said. For instance, the “soft floral blend of cherry, jasmine and gardenia” of the Prospect Heights flavor reflects the famous Brooklyn Botanic Garden located there.
“‘Church Avenue’ is a fruit blend of mango, papaya and jasmine because there’s a lot of West Indians that live in the area,” she said inside her Washington Avenue store, open since 2013, where she makes every product by hand.
Other scents include “Red Hook,” “Bed-Stuy,” “Park Slope” and other Brooklyn-esque flavors like “Brownstone” (“a sweet blend of sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine and vanilla”). Prices at Brooklyn Flavors range from $7 or $8 for lip balm or shea butter soap to $30 for sea salt scrub. There's also a "Canarsie Cookie" scent, as well as one for Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Kensington.
There is currently a Ditmas Park scent, but she's planning to discontinue it.
Not every neighborhood in the borough has a flavor, however, because of the labor-intensive process for creating each product in the body care line with a new scent, she said. But that doesn’t stop customers — mostly locals shopping for gifts or tourists visiting the nearby Brooklyn Museum — from asking for their favorite neighborhood.
“The popular requests [are] Williamsburg and Bushwick,” she said. “Sunset Park has come up a couple of times.”
“I just got into a store in Jackson, Mississippi. The owner came and saw the candles and he liked them, so they just got their batch,” she said.
And though the ingredients in Sylvester’s products come from all over the world, she hopes to one day use only locally-sourced supplies — from her beloved Brooklyn, of course.
“Brooklyn is all I know,” she said. “It’s a beautiful city and it’s got so much history.”
Brooklyn Flavors is located at 820 Washington Ave. in Prospect Heights. Visit their website at brooklynflavors.com.