PARK SLOPE — The loss of a longtime neighborhood business is allowing another to expand — and there's even a signature beer and theme song to go with it.
Palma Chemist will close Dec. 28 after 54 years on Seventh Avenue and Garfield Place. Its demise is a blow for Palma's devoted clientele, but there's a silver lining. The pharmacy's owners, who also own the building, have rented their space to Gear To Go, the outdoor outfitter around the corner.
Gear To Go will keep its current small space at 217 Garfield Pl. for equipment rentals and will renovate the 1,000-square-foot former pharmacy at 159 Seventh Ave. The new larger store will be big enough for more merchandise and events where customers can grab an IPA (called Gear Beer) brewed especially for the store while listening to "Headed Home," the new shop's theme song.
Both the beer and the song were created by longtime Gear To Go customers, and the expansion is happening thanks to a Park Slope investor who learned of owner Kevin Rosenberg's expansion dreams while the two were stuck in traffic after one of Gear To Go's group snowshoe hikes to the Catskills.
"My goal for the shop has always been to be a community resource, so it's really satisfying that we're using the community to build the new shop," Rosenberg said.
Growing the store has long been a goal of Rosenberg's. The 42-year-old Park Slope resident launched Gear To Go first as an online business from his living room couch, then moved it to a street stand on Seventh Avenue in 2009.
After hunting for a brick and mortar location for months, Rosenberg spotted a vacant storefront at 217 Garfield Pl. He slipped his card under the door but never heard back. During a visit to Palma Chemist, he mentioned his interest in the space around the corner. It turned out he was talking to the landlord, Palma Chemist co-owner Peter Muller, whose family owns the building.
Today Rosenberg prides himself on running what he describes as the only full-service outdoor outfitter in New York City. Gear To Go is stocked with almost everything you would need for a wilderness expedition, or at the very least an overnight in the woods.
The shop also rents and repairs camping gear, issues hunting and fishing licenses, and leads customers on outdoor adventures near and far, from the Catskills to Greenland. Most of Rosenberg's employees are licensed mountain guides.
"There are a lot of lifestyle stores that are all about you looking outdoorsy without getting dirty," Rosenberg said. "We're here to help you get dirty."
Rosenberg grew up in Franklin Square, Long Island, and discovered the outdoors in college at the University of Arizona, where he participated in Army ROTC. Trudging through the desert with a 75-pound backpack and sleeping under the stars sparked a passion for outdoor adventures.
"We used to go to beautiful places to learn how to fight," Rosenberg said. "Then I had the epiphany that you could go to those places without an M-16."
Rosenberg stuck with the military after graduation, flying jets and serving aboard a guided missile frigate with the U.S. Navy from 1996 to 2002. He enlisted again in 2003 with a naval unit that supported the war in Iraq but did not deploy there.
All of Gear To Go's employees are combat veterans, including a recently hired pharmacy tech from Palma Chemist who was a mortarman with the U.S. Army's Third Infantry division.
Rosenberg makes it a point to support fellow veterans, and he said he wishes other employers would, too. It frustrates him that too many seem reluctant to hire vets, in part because of unfounded fears that they're afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, Rosenberg said.
"They're great employees," Rosenberg said. "They get [stuff] done. In the outdoors, if something happens, who do you want with you, someone who's a web designer during the week and hikes on the weekends, or someone who can carry you out?"
Listen to Gear To Go's new theme song, "Headed Home."