âI’m going to miss my bench. ”
It’s 5:00 p.m. Friday and Martin Brewer is running away to the Bed-Stuy record store, he’s been building a community over the past four and a half years.
The interior is packed with customers, and outside, on its bright yellow bench, friends and neighbors have come to say goodbye and sit and chat.
Last Saturday, Brewer’s owner told him he had other plans for the space where he ran Halsey & Lewis – at Halsey St. and Lewis Ave. – since 2017. He must be absent this weekend.
Despite the short notice, Brewer was determined to stay positive. He said he had a sort of “handshake” with the owner and was grateful for the time he had.
âIt’s their space, and I was happy to be here,â he said. “I really liked it, and it looks like other people liked it too.”
Halsey & Lewis posted a notice on their website this week announcing the sudden news. It sold books, records, crystals, Palo Santo packets, and vintage curios, but the owners had also recently hosted live music events and it was a gathering space for artists and creatives.
Halsey & Lewis helped distribute PPE during the pandemic, and he also launched the www.letsgetonthebus.org initiative to support adolescents served up to the Smithsonian’s NMAAH & C.
âUnfortunately, we are losing space this weekend. Open every day until 7:00 p.m., everything must disappear! said his opinion. Brewer said people had since come from afar, including from the Bronx, East Flatbush and East New York, to say goodbye.
For those who wish to support financially, Brewer and co-owner and partner Sonya Farrell have launched a GoFundMe to help them relocate in the short term.
The GoFundMe explains that while the company survived the pandemic, it could not survive gentrification. Halsey & Lewis should be replaced with a pizza and wine bar.
As of Friday night, GoFundMe raised over $ 22,000.
âThe outpouring of the community has been huge and very sincere, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this community,â Brewer said.
With the funds, Brewer and Farrell hope they can rent and open a space with a similar vibe, he said. They’ve been to a few tours already and are hoping to find something in Bed-Stuy that they can afford.
âWe might like to have a bigger space and have small events, community think tanks, movie nights with projectors and other things where people are included and not excluded,â he said.
Brewer opened the store in February 2017, having previously owned a similar beautiful curiosity store in Park Slope. The store, Tangerine, operated in a pre-gentrified Park Slope for five years from 1997 to 2002, until rents there exceeded its range.
âI was on 5th Avenue and Third Avenue from 1997 to 2002,â he said. âIt’s not a new phenomenonâ¦ you know how it goes: it starts little by little, and then it suddenly happens.
After landing in Bed-Stuy, he had found a community of supportive neighbors and a constant stream of new friends to talk to on the yellow bench.
âI talk to a lot of people on this bench,â he said. âFrom the guy who grabs the cans, to the neighbors who come by every day. There are people who never paid for a stick of Palo Santo or sage, it’s just like, ‘Yeah, I got you.’
âI try to be of the people and for the people as much as I can. I’m not saying I’m that guy, âhe laughed. “But I try.”
The record store plans to go out with a DJ night this Sunday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. To support Brewer and Farrell in the next incarnation of Halsey & Lewis, check out their GoFundMe.
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