‘A little more Christmas’: Halls of Bay Ridge restaurant Skinflints to be decked ’till end of January

NY: Skinflints Celebrates X-Mas a tad longer
Walking in a Winter Wonderland! Owners of Bay Ridge restaurant Skinflints have decided to leave up their now famed holiday decorations until the third week of January.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The holiday season 2023 might be a wrap, and while many businesses have taken down their Christmas decorations, it is still a winter wonderland at Skinflints on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.

Christmas enthusiasts who already miss the twinkle and glitter are in for a treat when they visit the neighborhood favorite because Skinflints, which has been in business since 1975, has opted to keep the decorations up until the third week of January. 

Gerard Bell, who co-owns Skinflints with Billy Gardella, said putting up the decorations with their team members Freddy and Chico took four weeks.

“Why keep it up so long? Just because it’s beautiful,” Bell explained. “It took so long to put up; we just don’t want to take it right down again.” 

A closer look at Skinflints’ iconic holiday toy trains.
A closer look at Skinflints’ iconic holiday toy trains.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The decorations range from colorful red and green lights — which owners say will be repurposed on Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day — tinsel and ornaments, to three train sets chugging above diners along the walls. In the bar area, the train passes over replicas of the Verrazano and Brooklyn bridges.

The train set in the dining room reminded Bay Ridge residents Roberta Simpson and her husband, Dave Simpson, of their grandson. 

“We gave a train set to our grandson just like that 20 years ago,” Dave said.

The Simpsons are regulars and stopped by for dinner and to enjoy the Christmas decorations.

“I took my Christmas decorations down early and looked around the house today and said, ‘I need a little more Christmas,'” Roberta told Brooklyn Paper.

Green and red lights and tinsel fill the room.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
There’s even an appearance by St. Nick himself.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The community staple is still a place where everybody knows your name, and locals mingle with national and international tourists, enjoying American fare at reasonable prices after visiting the Dyker Heights Christmas lights. 

“Every night, there’s somebody here from Paris or England or New Zealand,” Bell said. “They go see the lights, then they come down here to eat.” 

Before Skinflints, the Meyer & Blohm ice cream parlor occupied the space for 50 years. Bell and Gardella kept many original details, like the mosaic floor tiles and ice cream gauges, preserving a piece of history and providing a sense of nostalgia for locals.

Some of the historic mosaic of Skinflints’ past still adorns the (now decorated) walls.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Even the outside is aglow.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“It’s the same bar, the same setup, the same ceiling, and the stained glass,” Bell said. “People like seeing something that’s been around because everything changes so quickly.”

Meyer & Blohm would have celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and Bell and Gardella plan on commemorating what would have been the ice cream parlor’s centennial. 

“We might do an ice cream theme, like a root beer float for $1 or something like that,” Bell shared. 

A closer look at the decor.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Patrons dine under the lights at Skinflints. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, has lived in Bay Ridge for 30 years. The Bay Ridge fixture is one of her favorite restaurants and social gathering spots where she meets with family and friends. Beckman praised the owners for their commitment to the community.

“[Gerad Bell] does Meals on Wheels; he sponsors meals during Thanksgiving time for those in need,” Beckman shared. “He does so much for the community; I think people respect that.” 

Beckman was thrilled that the holiday decorations would stay until the third week of January. 

“The holiday time is so busy,” Beckman said. “It’s nice that [Skinflints] is going to keep the decorations up for a few more weeks. So, if you didn’t have an opportunity to come, you can stop by and really enjoy all the hard work the staff has done here to make it such a beautiful, warm, and friendly space.”